A landmark court ruling on March 9 in Hong Kong has successfully overturned the Immigration Department’s decision to refuse entry of key members of the Shen Yun Performing Arts company last year.
The decision was an encouraging step toward ensuring cultural freedom and curbing the power of the Immigration Department, said Chairperson of Hong Kong Human Rights Monitor Chong Yiu Kwong.
“I’m happy about the court’s decision. … I feel that the court’s verdict is quite fair. It puts a limit on the discretionary power of the Immigration Department,” said Chong. “After the court’s verdict, Immigration can no longer be so reckless and unreasonably refuse others to enter Hong Kong.”
The legal case was filed by the Epoch Group—the local presenter of Shen Yun—against the director of Immigration, after he refused six members of the company entry to Hong Kong just seven days before the shows were due to commence in January 2010. The Epoch Group also publishes the Hong Kong edition of The Epoch Times.
The New York-based Shen Yun, referred to as the world’s premier classical Chinese dance company, was invited by the Epoch Group to perform seven shows at the Lyric Theatre Jan. 27–31, 2010.
We were shocked by the [Immigration] Director’s decision. The refusal to allow key production staff into Hong Kong just days before the shows was clearly a premeditated action to sabotage the show.
—Mr. Kan, chairman of the Epoch Group
Shen Yun believes the visa denial in Hong Kong was due to interference by the Chinese regime. In a Jan. 24, 2010, press release Shen Yun stated: "The Chinese communist regime has been seeking to interfere with our performances for years by trying to pressure officials and theaters to cancel our shows. We regret that the Hong Kong people are denied their right to see Shen Yun Performing Arts and understand that this incident constitutes a violation of Hong Kong people’s freedom. We hope the people of Hong Kong who treasure their freedom will urge the Hong Kong government to undo this mistake."
Shen Yun master of ceremonies Leeshai Lemish also said that upon the cancellation of the show audience members who planned to travel to Hong Kong from mainland China had their tickets confiscated by authorities and some were even arrested.
The Hong Kong ruling, issued by Judge Andrew Cheung in the High Court of the Special Administrative Region, ordered that the director of Immigration’s decision be “quashed” on the grounds that he “failed to take into account relevant considerations.”
According to its website, Shen Yun's mission is to revive traditional Chinese culture. It has been invited to perform at some of the world’s most prestigious venues, such as the Lincoln Center in New York, the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., and Palais des Congrès in Paris.
The organizers said that the performances were completely sold out within days of the public ticket release.
The sudden visa cancellation forced the organizers to refund over HK$5 million (US$642,000) to the public in lost ticket sales, said Mr. Kan.
“We were shocked by the director’s decision. The refusal to allow key production staff into Hong Kong just days before the shows was clearly a premeditated action to sabotage the show,” he said.
“We welcome the court’s decision, and we thank all the righteous support from Hong Kong and overseas, and praise the court for being able to clear the obstacles,” said Mr. Kan.
Next: In Hong Kong no Visa are scheduled for visting artists or sports teams