Cui Jian became very popular after a song “Nothing to my name” in May 1986.
He and his band performed the song on Tiananmen Square in May 1989, the year of the “June 4 Movement”, to support the students there who were on hunger strike fighting for democracy in China.
After the Tiananmen Square massacre, Cui Jian’s album publishing and business performance didn’t go well. In 1990, Cui Jian performed a song called “Last Shot” that memorializes the Sino-Vietnanmese war in a concert on the Asian Games. At the end of the song, he said, “We hope the gun shot we heard last year was the last.”
“A stray bullet hit my chest. Instantly my life flashed before my eyes. There’s only tears but not sad. If this is the last shot, I’ll accept the great glory.”
Cui Jian is a symbol of rebellion and critical spirits. Cui wasn’t allowed to perform on any official stages except bars and small places for many years. Having always been low key, Cui was recently reported to be invited to perform on CCTV’s spring festival gala, which has raised attention on him. But Cui’s agent, Youyou, leaked to NTD earlier that Cui won’t participate in the gala.
In an email to NTD, Youyou indicated:, “Mr. Cui Jian is currently busy working on his first movie ‘The Blue Bone’, he doesn’t have time to have a face to face interview with you. Mr. Cui indeed received an invitation from the spring festival gala team, but Mr. Cui eventually will not go to perform.”
NTD reporter: “What did he want to sing?”
Youyou: “Nothing to my name.”
Reporter: “Which part didn’t pass the censor?”
Youyou: “We don’t know. We just got notice, so we won’t go. It’s in fact very simple, it isn’t worth so much attention. I think, what can a spring festival gala represent? Cui Jian has a lot of fans all over the world. As an excellent musician, music is the most important.”
Following the convention, all the performances in the spring festival gala must be censored 4 to 6 times, but the details of the censor is kept hidden.
Mainland poet and dissident Wang Zang: “From the CCP’s perspective, they want to win over the rebels. We saw that many people have been bribed over the years. The CCP scolds them a little and does big favors for them. That’s what they’ve done all these years. Their invitation to Cui Jian is to win him over. If he performs on the gala, all his works in the past, those positive values, will be basically ruined.”
The CCTV gala lifts the ban on Cui Jian this year, which may be to show an open attitude, said Ai Xiaoming, former professor at Sun Yat-sen University and independent filmmaker. But its censor system cannot be changed.
Ai Xiaoming “I think the censor system must be abolished, the problem is that it can’t be abolished under the one-party dictatorship. In this situation, would you accept the censor or not? Would you insist on fighting for freedom of speech? Or do you change yourself to follow their rule, and get a chance to speak up? He has the chance to choose.”
Chinese poet and dissident Wang Zang thinks that allowing Cui Jian to perform in the gala doesn’t mean that the CCP is becoming open. Wang says the CCP is illegal which Chinese people all know. The so-called censor is just brainwashing. All the official actions are shows; maintaining stability shows.
Wang Zang: “Propaganda has always been their big knife. They’ve never given up struggling on public opinion ideology. They censor music, poems, literature, all aspects. They just want to ruin all the free thoughts, and Chinese peoples’ passion and backbone. Then, there won’t be supervision, objections, critiques,
and rebelling to them. They’ll get power and then profit.”
Cui Jian finally came back on TV in 2012. He sang a song called “Greenhouse Girl ” on Beijing TV’s spring festival gala last year.
“You ask me where I’m heading. I point to the ocean. Your surprise seems to give me, oh! Praise.”
52 year-old Cui Jian still rocks like before. Compared to the boldness in “Nothing to My Name” more than 20 years ago, Cui Jian’s music nowadays has more
inner meaning. Cui Jian is not “nothing to his name.”