Justin Bieber (China)
It’s too late now to say sorry for the Biebs – China banned the pop star from performing in their country, citing past instances of “bad behavior” which include taking photos at controversial monuments and recklessly skateboarding through the streets of Beijing. “In order to maintain order in the Chinese market and purify the Chinese performance environment, it is not suitable to bring in badly behaved entertainers,” the statement read. “We hope that as Justin Bieber matures, he can continue to improve his own words and actions, and truly become a singer beloved by the public.”
Beyonce has twice called off concerts in Malaysia due to concerns over the content of her show. In 2009, she postponed a concert after Islamic conservatives accused the show of being “immoral.” She had previously called off a 2007 concert over a dress code that required female performers to fully cover up from the shoulders to the knees, with no cleavage showing.
Martha Stewart (U.K.)
The homemaking guru was denied a visa to enter Britain in 2008 due to her criminal convictions and jail time in the U.S. The decision seemed to be the result of a new blanket rule enforced by the UK Border Agency, and Stewart hopes to return to the country in the future.
Brad Pitt (China)
Pitt returned to China for the first time in nearly 20 years for the Allied press tour in fall 2016. He had been barred from entering the country since 1997 when he starred in the film Seven Years in Tibet. Chinese officials took umbrage with his sympathetic portrayal of the young Dalai Lama’s tutor and the film’s negative depictions of Chinese soldiers in Tibet.
Lady Gaga (Indonesia)
Just three weeks before a sold-out 2012 “Born this Way” concert, Indonesian officials denied the pop star’s permit to perform in the country. They were responding to outspoken complaints and concerns that her clothes and dance moves would corrupt young people and undermine the moral fiber of the nation.
Alec Baldwin (The Philippines)
The 30 Rock star was barred from entering the Philippines in 2009 after making a joke about ordering a Filipina mail order bride. Baldwin was blacklisted as an “undesirable alien” for his perceived slights to the country’s stance on sex trafficking (mail order brides are illegal in the Philippines).
Chris Brown (UK, Australia)
Both the U.K. and Australia denied the singer a tour visa due to his conviction for his assault of then-girlfriend Rihanna. In 2010, the singer was denied entry into the U.K. just days before his tour was set to launch on the grounds of being guilty of a serious criminal offense. In 2015, Australia followed suit after calls from government officials campaigning against domestic violence.
Sasha Baron Cohen (Tajikistan, Kazakhstan)
Sasha Baron Cohen has a knack for offending people with his boundary-pushing spoof films. In 2012, Tajikistan banned his film The Dictator from the country saying it was contrary to the nation’s “mentality.” After his outrageous portrayal of a Kazakh man in Borat, Cohen was banned from visiting Kazakhstan and authorities also banned the film, sales of the DVD, and Cohen’s website. In 2012, the ban was lifted due to the fact that Borat had actually increased the number of visas issues by Kazakhstan. Authorities said they were “grateful to Borat for helping attract tourists to Kazakhstan.”
Miley Cyrus (China, Dominican Republic)
It’s a good thing Miley likes to party in the U.S.A. because she’s been banned from both China and the Dominican Republic. Cyrus was banned from China in 2009 after sharing a racially insensitive photo on her Instagram feed. The Chinese foreign minister remarked, ”Miss Cyrus has made it clear she is no friend of China or anyone of East Asian descent. We have no interest in further polluting our children’s minds with her American ignorance.” Then, in 2016, the Dominican Republic banned a scheduled Cyrus concert saying that she often “undertakes acts that go against morals and customs, which are punishable by Dominican law.”
Busta Rhymes (U.K.)
In 2008, Rhymes was detained at London’s City Airport and denied entry to the U.K. Officials even attempted to deport the rapper to Amsterdam. Rhymes was seemingly denied entry because of his sentencing over four separate incidents involving assault and drunk driving.
Martin Scorsese (China)
Scorsese has a long history of challenges with China. In 1997, after making Kundun, a film depicting the life of the 14th Dalai Lama and addressing clashes between China and Tibet, Scorsese was banned from entering the country. Chinese censors also balked at aspects of The Departed, from scenes of violence to a subplot involving selling stolen goods to the Chinese government. Lastly, Scorsese’s latest film Silence drew approbation from China for its praise of and reliance on the Taiwanese film industry.
Paris Hilton (Japan)
In 2010, the heiress was denied entry into Japan after pleading guilty to two misdemeanors in regards to cocaine possession. Hilton’s sentence included a year of probation, and Japan typically does not allow foreigners on probation to enter the country. She was detained at the airport and forced to cancel a business trip she had planned in Tokyo.
Harrison Ford — China
No Ford isn’t banned for his interactions with Chinese gangsters in the opening scene of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. He is an outspoken advocate for a free Tibet and has been since 1992 when his then-wife Melissa Matheson began working with Martin Scorsese on the script for Kundun. In 1995, Ford testified before the United States Senate Foreign Relations Committee enumerating China’s human rights abuses in Tibet and advocating for Tibetan independence. He has been banned from entering China ever since.
Snoop Dogg (Norway)
In 2012, the rapper was banned from entering Norway for two years after being arrested for marijuana possession. Snoop Dogg was initially fined for arriving in the country with eight grams of marijuana for a gig at a music festival. Officials still allowed him to play the festival (from which he reportedly tweeted updates about getting high), and following the concert, he was barred from returning for 24 months.
Selena Gomez (Russia, China)
It seems both Russia and China want the pop star to keep her hands to herself. In 2016, Gomez was forced to cancel two concerts in Russia after her visa was denied. Reportedly, she was denied entry because of a Change.org petition calling for the singer to speak out against Russian anti-LGBT laws during her concerts. Just a few months later, she was also banned from entering China for concerts due to photographs she took with the Dalai Lama.
Ke$ha’s 2013 concert in Malaysia was canceled after authorities deemed it would “hurt cultural and religious sensitivities” in the Muslim majority country. This was after the singer had made an effort to adhere to Malaysian cultural sensitivities, including altering song lyrics and her wardrobe. She tweeted in a frustrated response: “To be clear. I did NOT cancel I was not allowed to play and then I was going to play anyways and was threatened with imprisonment.”
Tyler the Creator (UK, New Zealand)
Tyler, the Creator, frontman for Odd Future, was banned from entering New Zealand and the U.K. for concert dates in 2014 and 2015 due to an alleged record of inciting violence at concerts and via his lyrics. New Zealand officials declared him a “potential threat to public order,” while the U.K. cited lyrics from numerous songs as possibly being indicative of a terrorist threat, saying they “might lead to inter-community violence in the U.K.”
Richard Gere (China)
The Pretty Woman star is likely the most visible advocate for the Free Tibet cause. In 1993, he went off-script as an Oscar presenter to protest China’s presence in Tibet and its “horrendous, horrendous human rights situation.” He runs two foundations to support those aims, the International Campaign for Tibet and The Gere Foundation. Gere even went so far as to call for a boycott of the 2008 Beijing Olympics. So it’s no wonder he’s been banned from China for life (a fact the actor believes has prevented him from getting work in big-budget studio films in an era so dependent on Chinese markets).
Akon (Sri Lanka)
R&B singer Akon was denied a Sri Lankan visa in 2010 after violent protests broke out in response to his “Sexy Chick” music video. The video depicted a pool party, featuring bikini-clad women, in front of a statue of the Buddha. Protestors in the country stormed the headquarters of a major television network in outrage over his forthcoming concert. Subsequently, he was denied a visa request with the government citing his “controversial video images, offensive song lyrics and strong protests coming from various cultural, religious groups and organizations in the country.”
Björk was banned from returning to China following a 2008 concert during which she chanted “Tibet! Tibet” at the end of her song “Declare Independence.” The singer made a habit of dedicating the song to occupied territories, but Chinese officials insisted she broke the law with her divisive calls for independence.
Elton John (Egypt)
In 2010, Egypt’s Musician Union barred Sir Elton John from performing at a private concert in the country, citing his homosexuality and his views about homosexuality in the Middle East. In an interview with Parade magazine, John had stated LGBT individuals should be allowed to live freely in the Middle East, as well as expressed his belief that Jesus Christ was gay. The remarks so upset the leader of Egypt’s Musician Union that he was banned from entering the country.
Mike Tyson (New Zealand)
In 2012, the former heavyweight boxing champion was forced to cancel a speaking tour in New Zealand after his visa was denied. The country regularly denies entry to those with “substantial criminal records,” and Tyson’s 1992 rape conviction (he was sentenced to six years in prison) made him ineligible to enter the country.
Jon Bon Jovi (China)
Bon Jovi was set to play their first ever concerts in China in 2015 when the government abruptly canceled them. No official reason was given, but most surmised that it was due to the discovery of images of the rock band performing in front of an image of the Dalai Lama in 2010. Later, the BBC reported that the pictures were actually sent by Taiwanese fans as part of a concerted effort to possibly secure more concerts in Taiwan in place of canceled Chinese dates.
The Beatles (The Philippines)
It’s rare for a celebrity to self-impose exile from a country, but The Beatles did just that after a disastrous 1966 trip to the Philippines. After refusing to attend a reception with First Lady Imelda Marcos, the Fab Four found themselves exposed to an angry mob without security on their way to the airport. The band pledged never to return (though they stopped touring altogether just one month after this concert). Still, even as solo artists, none of The Beatles ever stepped foot in the Philippines after their experience there.