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Controversial Chinese rocker, Cui Jian, won't sing at Lunar New Year TV gala

By Anjali Tsui and Katie Hunt, CNN
January 15, 2014 -- Updated 0857 GMT (1657 HKT)
Cui Jian's music blends western rock 'n' roll influences with more traditional Chinese sounds.
Cui Jian's music blends western rock 'n' roll influences with more traditional Chinese sounds.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Cui Jian declines to appear in state broadcaster's Lunar New Year television gala
  • Invite had surprised many as Chinese rock star sided with Tiananmen protesters in 1989
  • Annual show is one of world's most watched television programs
  • Marathon broadcast has been losing appeal among audiences in recent years.

Hong Kong (CNN) -- Chinese rock star, Cui Jian, has declined to appear on the state broadcaster's annual Lunar New Year television extravaganza, his manager told CNN Wednesday.

The invitation to perform had surprised many because Cui, sometimes called China's "father of rock", had sided with student protesters during the 1989 Tiananmen Square demonstrations.

"Mr. Cui Jian did indeed receive an invitation from the Spring Festival Gala. However, Mr. Cui Jian ultimately won't perform," his agent, You You, said in an email, without giving further details.

MORE: China's Bob Dylan still rocking

Cui Jian: China's first rock star

During the protests in 1989, students on hunger strike on the square adopted Cui's hit "Yiwu Suoyou" (Nothing to my Name) as their anthem.

At the height of the protests, Cui gave an impromptu performance in the square -- days before the government sent in tanks and troops to crack down on the demonstrators.

In the 1990s, authorities refused him permission to perform in big venues due to the political content of his lyrics, state newspaper Global Times reported on its website, although in recent years he has performed at some music festivals.

Lunar New Year, also known as Spring Festival in China, is the country's biggest holiday and families have traditionally gathered around the TV set on New Year's Eve to watch CCTV 's "Spring Festival Eve Gala."

MORE: Home, family mark Lunar New Year for Chinese

For years, it was China's most watched variety show, raking in huge advertising revenues and catapulting artists to stardom.

However, with its cheesy sketches and patriotic songs, the marathon broadcast has lost some of its appeal among audiences recently and organizers have tried to spice it up with performances by international stars like Celine Dion.

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