The outspoken British rock group Radiohead, which has been critical of China’s human rights record, appears to be testing the country’s censored Internet by opening a Chinese microblog account.
Tens of thousands of people have begun following a verified account in the name of the Oxford-based band, which was set up on Friday on Sina Weibo, the most popular microblog site in the country where censors block Twitter.
“Testing the Weibo,” reads the only message posted on the account.
That message was forwarded by more than 10,000 people, drew nearly 4,200 comments and had attracted almost 60,000 followers today.
Many Chinese Radiohead fans said they hoped the account was a sign that the band might be planning their first concert in mainland China.
“I wish I could see you in my lifetime,” one fan commented.
However, a tour seems extremely unlikely in China, where Beijing must approve all bands before they perform.
An official green light would be unlikely for Radiohead, who have played Tibet Freedom concerts and supported jailed democracy activist Liu Xiaobo, the winner of last year’s Nobel Peace Prize.
Chinese authorities have become even more cautious about allowing Western music acts to perform since Iceland’s Bjork closed a 2008 show in Shanghai by shouting “Tibet!” at the end of her song “Declare Independence”.
Oasis abruptly cancelled planned shows in China in 2009, saying the government had blocked them over guitarist Noel Gallagher’s performance at a Tibet Freedom concert in 1997.
Many Weibo users questioned whether the account was genuine, perhaps because of Radiohead’s politics.
Band representatives could not be reached on Monday to confirm the account.
A Sina spokeswoman, however, told AFP the account was genuine.
“The account is verified so it is true. It’s even recommended in our entertainment news feed,” she said.