HONG KONG–Nearly a thousand people chanted “Protect Shen Yun, Protect Hong Kong” during a rally and parade at Edinburgh Place on Jan. 31. Participants included residents, artists, and current and former Hong Kong legislators who gathered to voice their concern that “one country, two systems” was called into question by events that caused the cancellation of Shen Yun performances in Hong Kong.
World-renowned Shen Yun Performing Arts was scheduled to perform seven shows in Hong Kong between Jan. 27 and Jan. 31. The tickets, which became available Dec. 2, 2009, were sold out within five days. However, just six days before the opening, the Hong Kong Immigration Department refused to grant visas to six key production and technical personnel, forcing cancellation of the performances.
Emily Lau, Vice-Chairman of the Hong Kong Democratic Party, addressed the crowd regarding the “one country, two systems” rule, something which she herself has benefited from as a pro-democracy advocate whose presence would never be tolerated in mainland China. Likewise, Falun Gong practitioners who can practice freely in Hong Kong would be persecuted if they were in the mainland. However, she warned, “the boundary line of ‘one country, two systems’ is becoming increasingly blurred.
“Today, I came here to denounce this violation of Hong Kong’s core values—freedom, human rights and the rule of law—by the government of the Special Administrative Region (SAR).”
Under pressure from Beijing, Lau said, many Hong Kong media began using the phrase, “Freedom of expression as well as freedom of self-censorship.” “This [motto] led to a very terrifying phenomenon,” she said. “The people of Hong Kong will never hear what we say here today, because most of the media will not report on it.”
Former legislator Szeto Wah said the people of Hong Kong should be angry. They had the chance to enjoy a superb artistic performance and learn about Chinese traditional culture. By denying the visas, the SAR government has “undermined Hong Kong’s 'one country two systems' rule" and “has undermined Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy.” He said he is confident the citizens of Hong Kong will “react with a strong counterattack the next time a similar incident takes place.”
Richard Tsoi, deputy chair of the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements in China, said the obstruction agreed to by the SAR government “was clearly due to Beijing’s suppression of Shen Yun and Falun Gong. What has happened is unacceptable,” he said. Both the Falun Gong organization and the Hong Kong Alliance are legal organizations and can hold public events. “I hope that in the future, public social organizations can support each other to guard freedom and human rights and thus preserve the free environment of Hong Kong.”
Both Szeto Wah and Richard Tsoi had the opportunity to see Shen Yun in North America last April. They admired the exquisite performance and looked forward to Shen Yun’s visit to Hong Kong.
Hong Kong television producer Shum See Hoi said he went to a lot of effort to obtain his tickets for Shen Yun, adding that he was anticipating the Shen Yun performance because of the impact and inspiration it would bring to the arts community in Hong Kong. He was baffled when the government “refused such a wonderful show with an almost idiotic reason, causing the general public of Hong Kong to miss such an opportunity.”
Shum said, “While I am disappointed, I want to convey my concern for the artists and professional staff of Shen Yun. I hope that they will not be worried or discouraged by the unreasonable actions of the Hong Kong government, and I hope that Shen Yun will soon come to perform in Hong Kong.”
Mr. Tsoi also reminded Hong Kong citizens of the importance of making “one man one vote” a reality in Hong Kong, “Hong Kong's Special Administrative Region Government has already lost the high degree of autonomy in the ‘one country two systems.’ In order to maintain our freedom, there must be a truly democratic government.”
Mr. Tsoi also called on everyone to “express concern for spiritual beliefs” and to “focus on fighting for Hong Kong’s freedom and democracy.”