Last month I joined a considerable crowd of people in complaining about Maureen Dowd's attack on Bob Dylan in the New York Times. Among other things, I pointed out that no evidence existed to back up the main conceit of her piece: that Dylan had been censored by Chinese authorities and prevented from playing several of his famous early-sixties protest songs. The setlists for his shows in Beijing and Shanghai looked no different from those he had been offering all over the world in the past year or two. Now Dylan himself — who celebrates his seventieth birthday on May 24 — has made the very uncharacteristic gesture of responding to the hubbub on the official Dylan site. He writes: "As far as censorship goes, the Chinese government had asked for the names of the songs that I would be playing. There's no logical answer to that, so we sent them the set lists from the previous 3 months. If there were any songs, verses or lines censored, nobody ever told me about it and we played all the songs that we intended to play."
Update: In a Times report on Dylan's post, Dave Itzkoff writes, "Bob Dylan...weighed in on his much-discussed recent performances in China, saying that he had shared the names of the songs he intended to play with the Chinese government and was able to play the set lists he intended." No, this is not what Dylan says. He says that he sent them "the set lists from the previous 3 months." As far as I can tell, he didn't play any songs that weren't on those lists, but he denies announcing his particular choices in advance.