February 17, 2004
David Bowie's never been able to do anything much without grabbing a headline or two along the way.
And tonight's Brisbane gig at the Entertainment Centre is no different.
Bowie has graciously agreed to let a non-profit organisation called Friends of Falun Gong attend all his shows, thanks to his drummer Sterling Campbell's heart-felt experience.
Sterling is a practitioner of the ancient spiritual meditation and exercise practice of Falun Gong.
He was among 59 North Americans and Europeans who attempted to unfurl banners and voice support for the movement, banned by the Chinese government, in Tiananmen Square on February 14, 2003.
Sterling told Rolling Stone magazine that he was questioned and beaten for 30 hours by Beijing police because of his involvement.
He said he was punched and kicked to the floor because he wouldn't co-operate.
After 90 minutes, he said a group of demonstrators, including women, was taken to an anonymous building with the facade and lobby of a hotel, where the abuse continued into the next day.
Sterling said he was never officially arrested and was put on a plane the following day with bruises on his arms.
"We can read stories about how bad the situation is in China, but experiencing it first-hand completely changed me," he said just before the launch of Bowie's Reality Tour.
"I can say from the heart that my experience convinced me that I cannot stop speaking out about this issue until we see a change in human rights and religious freedoms in China."
Friends of Falun Gong aims to raise awareness of the group and prevent persecution.