The Chinese music company that applied for the visas said the government denied them on account of a 1998 Tibetan Freedom concert in Washington, D.C. at which Kraftwerk was scheduled to perform, reports the Huffington Post.
But the German band didn't actually perform at the event. Bad weather caused them to cancel their show, and the event famously had several attendees injured in lightning storms, according to Rolling Stone.
China's government has a history of denying visas to performers who have supported Tibetan independence. State-run media outlets reported that Kraftwerk would no longer perform, but only cited "political reasons" to explain the change of plans.
Kraftwerk, originally formed in 1970, are considered forefathers of electronic music. They are responsible for a number of technological innovations, including a patent for an electronic drum kit with sensor pads, filed in 1975 and issued in 1977.
The band made a return with an eight-day retrospective concert series at the Museum of Modern Art in March of last year. In October, they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.