Seemingly wherever Shen Yun, a show of classical Chinese dance and music touring the world appears, officials of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) seek to block it from performing. Nonetheless, nearly all of the hundreds of performances have taken place on schedule. Cancellations have occurred in countries that were part of the former Soviet Union—Ukraine, Moldova, Russia, and Romania—or where the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has strong leverage, such as in Hong Kong, South Korea, and Singapore.
Two performances of the New York-based Shen Yun Performing Arts in Greece on June 3 and 4 nearly didn’t happen. The details are unique to Athens, but the story is similar to other venues.
On May 21, exactly two weeks before the first scheduled performance, the Falun Dafa Association of Greece, the sponsor of the show, discovered that the ticket sales for Shen Yun were disrupted. The Athens Music Hall did not inform them about stopping ticket sales, but the sponsor became suspicious when they were no longer getting daily updates.
Soon thereafter, the sponsor received a faxed message from the Athens Music Hall, saying that the shows had to be “postponed” due to technical problems at the venue, which could only be fixed between June 1 and 7—a period that included the days of the scheduled Shen Yun performances.
At first, the theater would not specify the “technical problem.” Later, they disclosed it as a ventilation problem. No explanation was provided as to why the alleged ventilation problem could not be fixed prior to the Shen Yun shows, as the theater's calendar indicated several days with no scheduled performances beforehand.
It is not hard to surmise where the pressure to “postpone,” which would have meant canceling the shows, came from. Greece has been in an economic crisis with a $300 billion debt. On the day the sponsor of Shen Yun learned that their shows would be “postponed,” Reuters reported May 21 that China Ocean Shipping Group (COSCO) would go ahead with investments to modernize Piraeus Port as part of a 3.4 billion euro concession deal with Greece.
According to Greek media reports, the spokesperson for the Falun Dafa Association of Greece said that COSCO's president and senior managers met with Greek politicians at the theater on the same day, May 21.
In the end, a second theater, the Badminton Theater, was found. One report from a person involved in the negotiations said that this theater too had received a phone call from the Chinese embassy, on the day the show started, seeking to persuade the theater not to hold the performances. The local sponsors of Shen Yun had already met with the second theater's management, explaining in depth the role played by the CCP. The second theater allowed Shen Yun to proceed with the shows, but indicated that they absolutely did not want to get involved in political matters, and if media contacted them about China's interference, they would respond with 'no comment.'
Cancellations in Moldova and Ukraine
As with the incident in Greece, the evidence reveals a link between the PRC and the cancellations of Shen Yun shows in Moldova and Ukraine. The performance scheduled for May 28 in Odessa, Ukraine, was suddenly canceled when the Ukrainian government suspended the theater contract and annulled Shen Yun performers’ visas.
According to Shen Yun’s master of ceremonies Leeshai Lemish, the letter from the Odessa Regional Council said that the PRC officials requested the Council to cancel the Shen Yun performance. Two performances scheduled in the Ukraine's capital, Kyiv, were similarly canceled in April.
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