Shen Yun Performing Arts, warmly received in more than 100 cities worldwide so far, is effectively being denied entry by the Hong Kong authorities just days before seven sold-out shows were to begin.
Shen Yun performs traditional Chinese dance and music—so traditional that it is not welcome by the communist regime in mainland China.
Shen Yun has been canceled in Hong Kong, local organizers announced at noon on Jan. 23, citing the refusal of Hong Kong authorities to issue visas to seven key production staff. The 7,000 residents of this world financial center who held tickets to the much-anticipated premier of Shen Yun will have to wait.
Six days before the show’s debut on Jan. 27, Hong Kong’s Immigration Department informed the company that seven production staff would be denied entry. Later, one of the staff members was given oral permission to enter after the organizing team made repeated entreaties for a re-evaluation.
Visa Trouble, or Political Interference?
Ostensibly the visas were canceled because, according to the authorities, it was not necessary to bring in expatriate staff to fill the roles. Hong Kong public figures have criticized the decision, claiming that it was actually a result of political pressure from Beijing.
Shen Yun’s artists include practitioners of Falun Gong, a spiritual practice banned and persecuted in China, and its performances include artistic representations of Chinese citizens standing up to end the persecution. Supporters say the sensitivity of the subject for mainland Chinese authorities is behind the refusal.
Although presenters applied for the visas on Oct. 13, 2009, the denials came only a week before the opening show. Hon. Albert Ho Chun-yan, legislative council member and chairman of the Democratic Party (Hong Kong), believes the last minute denials were intentional and politically motivated.
According to Ho, the Immigration Department may be acting under pressure from the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to prevent Shen Yun from performing in Hong Kong. Ho suspects that the authorities’ strategy was to stall the visa approval process for as long as possible and then deny the visas of key staff.
A press release from Shen Yun Performing Arts says they had “clearly explained” to Hong Kong authorities that the production members were an integral part of the show.
“Our production staff are highly trained in Shen Yun’s specific artistic requirements, which are exceptionally technical and detailed. They cannot be replaced and the show cannot go on without them,” the release said. The positions included lighting, sound effects, and a backdrop technician.
“I believe this was a political decision made by the higher-ups from the beginning,” Ho said. “It could be interference from the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office or Liaison Office of the Central People's government in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.”
“Any organization related to Falun Gong will encounter many troubles when trying to hold an event, and anything can happen. Hong Kong is catastrophic [in this regard] and the Immigration Department is one of the disaster areas, a complete failure of the 'one country, two systems,'” Ho added.
If the claims of political interference are true, it would not be the first time the CCP has attempted to derail Shen Yun’s performances. Methods employed around the world include political pressure on governments in smaller countries, letters to local politicians and theaters, agitation of local Chinese loyal to the Party to protest, and even, it is claimed, carefully placed slashes on the tires of the buses that ferry the performers from city to city.
The Epoch Times obtained a scanned copy of the Hong Kong Immigration Department’s visa denial letter. In phone calls and emails to Hong Kong authorities, The Epoch Times attempted to find out whether it is common for performing arts companies to receive visa refusals of this nature, and if so, when the last refusal took place. A spokesperson was unavailable, however, and no response had been received by press time.