KIEV, Ukraine—Shen Yun Performing Arts, the world’s premier Chinese classical dance and music company, has been cancelled in Odessa, Ukraine, as a direct result of pressure by Chinese diplomats on local authorities.
The performance was scheduled for May 28 in Odessa Vodyanoy theatre of musical comedy in southern Ukraine.
Based in New York, the mission of Shen Yun Performing Arts is to revive 5,000 years of artistic tradition in China that was largely destroyed by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) during the Cultural Revolution. The company has been touring globally since 2007, performing over 500 shows on some of the world’s most prestigious stages.
Chinese diplomats started pressuring Ukrainian officials a month ahead of the show’s opening date to not allow Shen Yun to perform. China’s consulate in Odessa sent a protest note to the regional council requesting them to cancel the performance.
Odessa officials then began receiving letters from Ukraine’s foreign ministry, the prime minister, the ministry of culture and the national security service pressuring the council to cancel the show. The Vodyanoy theatre is run by the Odessa regional council.
The pressure intensified as China’s foreign minister Yang Jieqi visited Ukraine the week before the show was to perform.
The theater then officially suspended the show’s contract, mentioning in the notification letter that it is important for Ukraine to pay close attention to developing friendship and economic ties with Beijing.
At the same time, some Shen Yun performers were denied visas to enter Ukraine without explanation.
Since the interference began, Shen Yun’s presenter in Ukraine, the charitable organization For Children of the New Century, has attempted to talk with top government officials about the situation. However, the charity’s director Svetlana Vetryak, said she was not able to get anyone to meet with her.
The Epoch Times met with Ukrainian Vice-Premier Vladimir Seminozhenko and asked about the situation. He denied any government involvement in the interference with the performance. No other officials responded to The Epoch Times requests for interviews.
“We wanted to let residents and the guests of Odessa enjoy meeting with ancient Chinese culture. It would be truly wonderful cultural event not only for our city, but for all Ukraine,” Alla Lavrinenko from For Children of the New Century, said at the press conference on May 28.
A similar situation also occurred in the capital of Moldova, Chisinau, where Shen Yun was to perform just before Odessa.
When Shen Yun performers arrived at the theater for the first day of their two-day run on May 25, they found the door locked.
Shen Yun made stops in 12 European countries in the month of March.
The CCP, via its consulates, embassies, and community organizations, regularly pressures local authorities to cancel the show in most places where Shen Yun performs.
Shen Yun takes as its mission to revive tradition Chinese arts that once thrived before decades of suppression by the CCP. The show also includes dance programs set in contemporary China that portray the persecution of Falun Gong—a peaceful meditation practice persecuted by the regime since 1999. These portrayals are an irritant for CCP diplomats.
Vice President of European Parliament Edward McMillan-Scott has sent a letter to ask Ukraine’s president to let the Shen Yun perform in Ukraine.
Some members of Ukrainian Parliament, and members of the U.S. Congress also sent letters to Ukrainian officials to assist Shen Yun Performing Arts.
Human rights advocates as well, condemned the Chinese diplomats’ interference with domestic affairs in Ukraine.
“This is brutal intervention and we can’t agree with it," said Evgeniy Zakharov, the head of Kharkov human rights group in Ukraine.
Zakharov commented that the Chinese officials behave the same way as Soviet authorities did, physically destroying art and elements of culture.
"Ukraine should respond if it considers itself to be a European civilized country," he said. “We are very disappointed”
Many theatergoers who bought tickets for the show were sorry not to see Shen Yun perform.
“To visit the show I even cancelled my exercises today. I have taught the children to dance all my life. It was interested to watch the choreography, to learn something new from it. I am also interested in China’s history,” said Elena, a choreographer.
“We hoped the show would take place. But if we do not give the visas, then our country is not free enough,” said Ludmila.
“We read a lot on the internet about Shen Yun visiting many countries. So they could perform there, but in our country they can’t. We are very disappointed,” she marked.
Two performances of Shen Yun were canceled in Kiev in April, 2009 in a similar scenario. Ukraine's Ministry of Foreign Affairs did not grant visas to the show’s performers and the president's office made the dates Shen Yun was scheduled to perform at the Ukraine’s famous National Palace suddenly “unavailable.”