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FILE - In this June 16, 2006 file photo, Chinese rock icon Cui Jian during rehearsals for a concert to mark the 20th anniversary of rock music in China held at an indoor stadium in Shenyang, northern China's Liaoning province. Chinese rocker Cui Jian, who fell out of favor with the government after he sided with demonstrating students during the 1989 Tiananmen protests, has been asked to appear on the state broadcaster's Chinese New Year gala, his manager said Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2014.
BEIJING—Chinese rocker Cui Jian, who fell out of favor with the government after he sided with demonstrating students during the 1989 Tiananmen protests, has been asked to appear on the state broadcaster's Chinese New Year gala, his manager said Tuesday.

"We've received an invitation from CCTV for Cui Jian to perform at the gala," said You You. She said she could not say anything more because of a confidential agreement signed with the national broadcaster.

The foreign affairs department of CCTV, which deals with foreign media inquiries, said it was unable to comment.

While the invitation could be seen as finalizing Cui's political rehabilitation, it also points to efforts by CCTV to revive flagging interest in the New Year gala broadcast. The show has been widely mocked in recent years for cheesy performances and stilted staging, prompting organizers to hire popular film director Feng Xiaogang to direct this year's gala.

Known as the godfather of Chinese rock, Cui won fame in the late 1980s with songs such as "Nothing to my Name," voicing the hopes and anxieties of a generation of Chinese entering adulthood after the death of Mao Zedong and the end of orthodox communism.

That song became the unofficial anthem for the pro-democracy demonstrators who gathered in Tiananmen Square in 1989. He played in Tiananmen Square in May 1989, days before the government sent in tanks and troops to crack down on the protests.

Later, Communist authorities refused permission for concerts and censored lyrics. In 2005, he was able to headline at a Beijing stadium. In 2006, he performed with the Rolling Stones in Shanghai, singing "Wild Horses" alongside Mick Jagger.

"There was no specific ban on Cui Jian performing though sometimes he might have problems with local authorities in giving performances," manager You said. "But those problems have gradually gone with time."

Steven Schwankert, executive editor of True Run Media, which publishes a guide to nightlife and entertainment in Beijing, said Cui's song "Nothing to my Name," in which he sings about having nothing, wasn't a message the Communist Party wanted communicated at a time when they were providing economic opportunities to the people.

Cui became famous in the late 1980s and early 1990s at a politically sensitive time, and when all rock music was underground, Schwankert said.

"I think China's moved on in terms of what people can do individually and it's not such a big deal anymore," he said.