Sir Elton John publicly dedicated his only concert in Beijing to Chinese artist and political critic Ai Weiwei, sending a murmur of shock through an audience accustomed to tight censorship of entertainment.
Minutes into a more than two-hour show, Sir Elton told the audience that the performance was dedicated "to the spirit and talent of Ai Weiwei", according to several audience members. They said the crowd rumbled in recognition that Mr Ai remains a touchy subject for the Chinese government.
The internationally-acclaimed sculptor and installation artist has used his art and his renown to draw attention to social injustice. He was detained for nearly three months last year and he remains barred from leaving China.
Mr Ai and Sir Elton met each other briefly on Sunday before the concert. "I super like him," Mr Ai said on his Twitter feed, which is banned in China but on which he has 180,000 followers.
Online media sites were reporting on Sir Elton's two-performance tour in China, but not the remark.
The Chinese government further tightened already heavy scrutiny of live performances after singer Bjork shouted " Tibet, Tibet" at the close of a song called Declare Independence at a Shanghai performance in 2008.