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Is Lady Gaga a threat to China's 'national cultural security'?

Lady Gaga performs "Born This Way" during the MuchMusic Video Awards in Toronto on June 19, 2011.

Mike Cassese/Reuters

Girls Run the World, pop diva Beyoncé Knowles asserts on her latest record. But it turns out that girl power, like everything else in China, is subject to the whims of the country's bureaucrats.

Ms. Knowles' hit is among 100 songs that have been put onto an updated Internet blacklist by China's Ministry of Culture. Music websites must now delete the offending songs by Sept. 15 or face unspecified punishment.

The songs – a largely Pablum list that also includes the likes of I Want it That Way by the Backstreet Boys and Last Friday Night by Katy Perry – have been declared threats to China's "national cultural security."

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"The 100 Internet songs which are listed in the attached notice didn't abide by content censorship or record registration according to the Internet Culture Management Temporary Provisions," is the explanation provided on the Ministry of Culture's website. It was the third time this year that bureaucrats have come up with a list of 100 songs that music websites are now forbidden to distribute.

Most of the songs on the lists are by artists from Taiwan, Hong Kong and Japan, with Lady Gaga and Christina Aguilera sharing top billing as the most censored Western artists. Each had seven songs named as threats, including Lady Gaga's hit Born This Way.

Previous songs identified as dangerous to Chinese culture included Michael Jackson's Hold My Hand, a Chinese cover version of Celine Dion's My Heart Will Go On and four songs by Canadian rocker Avril Lavigne, who has a wide following in China.

The initial Culture Ministry directive, sent out in early January, put versions of Jingle Bells and Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas on the naughty list.

The only way the songs can be re-evaluated is if the owners of the music make a formal submission to China's Ministry of Culture.

The most recent list was greeted with widespread scorn among China's lively community of 485 million Internet users, a large number of whom regularly download music. "This is really an amazing country! Anyone writing a song in China needs to register their record in the Ministry of Culture before singing!" one commentator wrote on the popular Sina Weibo microblogging website.

Another asked: "Does the Ministry of Culture only want us to hear Red (revolutionary) songs from now on?"

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About the Author
Senior International Correspondent

Mark MacKinnon is currently based in London, where he is The Globe and Mail's Senior International Correspondent. In that posting he has reported on the Syrian refugee crisis, the rise of Islamic State, the war in eastern Ukraine and Scotland's independence referendum.Mark recently spent five years as the newspaper's Beijing correspondent. More

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