July 1, 2013 10:58

Jennifer Lopez defends controversial birthday song for 'repressive' Turkmenistan leader

Singer played a private gig in Turkmenistan, a nation Human Rights Watch calls 'among the most repressive in the world'

Jennifer Lopez defends controversial birthday song for 'repressive' Turkmenistan leader

Photo: PA

Jennifer Lopez has defended her controversial performance in Turkmenistan on Saturday night (July 1).

The singer was flown to Turkmenistan by The China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC), China's state-run oil and gas company, for a lucrative gig at a private party. Human Rights Watch has branded the nation "among the most repressive in the world" and Lopez is believed to be the first significant international pop star to perform there.

After rattling through a greatest hits set, she sang 'Happy Birthday' for the nation's president Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov, who was in attendance and celebrating his 56th birthday. She then said from the stage: "It was our pleasure. And we wish you the very happiest birthday."

"Had there been knowledge of human rights issues any kind, Jennifer would not have attended," the singer's representative has since told the Associated Press. The representative explained that the birthday song had been a last-minute request from the CNPC, which Lopez "graciously obliged".

Lopez's representative also made clear that the singer's performance didn't take place at a political event, but declined to disclose how much the singer was paid for her set. On June 1, Lopez was among the performers at Beyonce's Chime For Change charity concert at London's Twickenham Stadium.

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