China Bans Lip-Synching

Posted by: Frederik Balfour on November 14, 2008

Readers of this blog will remember the minor furor caused after the discovery that angel faced 9 year old Lin Miaoke was actually lip-synching while another child sung backstage when she belted out “Ode to the Motherland” during the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics. It would seem that the government took to heart the results of online polls in August where netizens said they would have preferred that the girl who actually sung for Lin was on stage instead. Now the powers that be have decided to banish the ghost of Milli Vanilli from Chinese stages forever. The Ministry of Culture has announced a “Name and Shame” campaign that will finger any artists who lip-synch during live concerts, revoking licenses from repeat offenders. “Performers must not cheat audiences by lip-synching, and concert organizers must not arrange for performers to lip-synch,” a draft amendment posted on the ministry’s website said, according to Reuters.

China has long taken a heavy handed approach to live music and other forms of cultural expression, such as performance art. For example the Rolling Stones were forced to cut hits including “Honky Tonk Woman” and “Brown Sugar” from their Shanghai performance in 2006. Performers are expected to hand over their play lists in advance to censors for vetting to ensure politically sensitive or lewd content is excised. I’m not sure if the cultural commissars actually crouch on stage next to the roadies, ready to pull the plug on the amplifiers if musicians break into risky improv, but most artists, foreign and home-grown, generally respect these rules in order to perform. Beijing also tightly controls what can appear on the silver screen. The steamy blockbuster, “Lust, Caution”, for example, underwent massive trimming before its commercial release in the mainland, creating a booming business for sellers of bootleg DVD versions of the uncut original. China does not have an audience rating system found in other countries that protects minors from sex and violence, and its paternalistic approach extends to all ages.

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