Beijing (AFP) – The Eurovision Song Contest appears to have become the latest victim of Chinese censorship as performances including tattoos and a gay-themed dance were cut from a semi-final broadcast.
Online video service MangoTV did not show the heavily tattooed Albanian singer Eugent Bushpepa and an entry from Ireland, which featured a romantic dance sequence by two men, when it aired it on Wednesday.
Contestants from 19 countries took part in Tuesday’s first semi-final of the competition being hosted by Lisbon, Portugal, ahead of Saturday’s final.
MangoTV also blurred out rainbow flags in the audience associated with the LGBT movement.
LGBT culture remains taboo in China’s entertainment industry where same-sex relationships are banned from television screens and gay content is forbidden on online streaming platforms.
With its high kitsch content, Eurovision has long been popular with gay fans, and rainbow flags representing gay rights are a common sight at the finales alongside those of participating nations.
Austrian bearded drag queen Conchita Wurst shot to fame after winning the Eurovision Song Contest in 2014 with her song “Rise Like A Phoenix” and used her platform to campaign for gay rights.
The omissions from Wednesday’s broadcast were not explained.
Representatives from MangoTV, with exclusive rights to telecast the show in China, could not be reached for comment.
A spokesman for parent company HunanTV told AFP that they “weren’t aware” of edits to the Eurovision broadcast in China.
China’s media watchdog in January banned tattoos and other “decadent” subculture elements from broadcasts, as it cracks down on what it sees as behaviour contrary to the ruling Communist Party’s “values and morals”.
Chinese football players with tattoos were forced to wear bandages on their arms or long sleeves to cover up their inkwork during games in March, according to media reports.
The Irish and Albanian performers qualified for Eurovision’s final, but it remains to be seen if MangoTV will show their songs on Saturday.