HONG KONG—Six key production staff of Shen Yun Performing Arts were denied entry visas into Hong Kong six days before the show is scheduled to debut in the Chinese autonomous region on Jan. 27. Organizers of the performance are requesting a reevaluation of the visa refusals by the Immigration Department of the Government of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.
Shen Yun, a New York-based performing arts group, was invited by the Hong Kong Falun Dafa Association, and local bureau of New Tang Dynasty Television and The Epoch Times, to give seven performances from Jan. 27 to Jan. 31 in Hong Kong. According to the presenting organizations, tickets for all seven shows were sold out within the first week of sales. Shen Yun is known for depicting the traditional Chinese culture that was suppressed during the Cultural Revolution, as well as messages of hope about ending the persecution of Falun Gong, a spiritual practice that has been suppressed in China since 1999.
On Jan. 22, the Immigration Department denied entry visas for seven of the 96 artists and staff on account of alleged incompatibility with Hong Kong labor laws. After multiple requests from the presenters, the Immigration Department granted a visa for one additional artist, leaving the company short of six production staff.
Hon. Albert Ho Chun-yan, legislative council member and chairman of the Democratic Party (Hong Kong), said that the Immigration Department knew that it would be impossible for Shen Yun to perform without the six production staff. The individuals in question have worked with the group for many years, and handle highly specialized technical duties as well as coordinate the entire company. Ho, chairman of the Hong Kong Democratic Party, says that it would be impossible to find local replacements that are qualified.
“The production staff have accompanied the performing group to various countries for performances. They are an indispensable part of the performing group,” he said.
Reason for the Visa Denials
Although presenters applied for the visas back on Oct. 13, the denials came only a week before the opening show. Given the late decision, there is no time to file a lawsuit. Ho 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 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.
“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.
The presenters attempted to meet with the director, assistant director, or assistant commissioner of the Immigration Department, but haven’t received responses. They said that they are not giving up and plan to rally for international support.
Ms. Xu Qixian, the Secretary of the local Falun Dafa Association, indicated that she would spare no effort for a successful resolution. Xu plans to ask the Immigration Department to reevaluate their decision on Jan. 23.
Meanwhile, the organizers believe the Hong Kong government made a mistake and are appealing to the international community to petition against the government's refusal to grant visas for Shen Yun artists.
Support From the United States
Support for Shen Yun being allowed to perform has already appeared. Rep. Gus M. Bilirakis, a member of the U.S. Congress representing Florida's ninth district, got wind of the visa denial soon after it took place and drafted a letter to the Director of Immigration in Hong Kong and the Commissioner for Economic and Trade Affairs on the same day, Jan. 21.
Having just seen Shen Yun Performing Arts at Washington DC’s Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, he described Shen Yun as “marvelous,” writing that “I feel that Hong Kong too, can benefit from watching a performance of this caliber.”
The letter continued that Shen Yun is the “world’s premier Chinese dance and music company” and an “outstanding multicultural example of our country and we are very proud of it.
“I urge you to take action and approve the remaining 6 visas and encourage your government to prevent interference of Shen Yun performances in Hong Kong,” Mr. Bilirakis wrote.
Albert Ho said he could understand the feelings of the local organizers. “Of course they don’t want to give up since they’ve done a lot of work and tickets sold well. The audience would [also] be very disappointed.”
Read the original Chinese article