Sting Cancels Concert Over Human Rights Concerns

The former Police frontman says performing in Kazakhstan would go against "everything he has stood for."

Sting has canceled a performance scheduled for Monday in Kazakhstan, after human rights organization Amnesty International tipped him off to its government’s repression of strikers.

Several thousand employees of UzenMunaiGas, an oil company, went on strike in May, after they say their wages were unfairly cut. 250 strikers have been fired, and their lawyer has been imprisoned, reports Reuters.

Sting was scheduled to perform his Symphonicity concert, which pairs Police songs with orchestral arrangements, to celebrate of the 13th anniversary of Kazakhstan’s new capital, Astana.

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Kazakhstan, whose neighbors include Russia and China, has been criticized by Amnesty International and the US State Department for human rights abuses. After learning Sting was set to perform there, Amnesty warned Sting that his appearance would be seen as an endorsement of President Nursultan Nazarbayev and his policies.

Sting canceled the concert, and released a statement Sunday explaining why.

“Hunger strikes, imprisoned workers and tens of thousands on strike represents a virtual picket line which I have no intention of crossing,” the statement read. “The Kazakh gas and oil workers and their families need our support and the spotlight of the international media on their situation in the hope of bringing about positive change.”

A statement on his website said Sting had been a supporter of human rights for 40 years, and going through with the performance would “against everything he has stood for.”

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