TOKYO—Chinese consulates in Japan have recently sent letters to businesses, newspapers, and government officials in cities and prefectures across the country, demanding that they withdraw their support for Shen Yun Performing Arts, a Chinese classical dance company that tours the world. Good relations with the People’s Republic of China (PRC) are said to be at issue.
Shen Yun’s tour in Japan runs from April 19 until May 1. It will perform 11 shows in five cities, and is currently playing in Tokyo.
Last year, and the year before, Chinese consular officials also sent similar letters.
One of the letters, reviewed by The Epoch Times, asks a top government official in a city in Fukuoka to cancel his sponsorship of Shen Yun’s local promoters there, where the company is scheduled to perform on May 1. He was additionally asked to withdraw all public relations activities, “involvement,” or other support. The letter was signed by Li Tianran, an official at a PRC consular office in Fukuoka.
Officials in prefectural governments in Tokyo, Kanagawa, Osaka, and Aichi, at least, have also received the letters, according to the local promoters in those areas, who were contacted by confused officials after receiving the abusive notes.
So have theaters, television broadcasters, magazines, and three of Japan’s largest newspapers.
The letters frame their demands as being “for the sake of Sino-Japanese relations,” according to the text in the letter seen by The Epoch Times. The Epoch Times devotes a segment of its website to feedback from audiences that have seen Shen Yun.
The Chinese authorities have long attempted to shut down Shen Yun’s performances around the world. The company is frequently sponsored by the Falun Dafa Associations where it performs; Falun Dafa, a spiritual practice, is persecuted ferociously by the Communist Party in China.
A focus of the round of letters in Japan was to slander the host Falun Dafa Association, using the Communist Party’s propaganda against the practice.
In addition, analysts say that the Chinese regime fears the attractiveness to Chinese audiences of the traditional Chinese culture Shen Yun presents. The Chinese Communist Party has sought over the past 60 years to stamp out China’s traditional culture.
The demanding letters were sent in the context of ongoing maritime disputes between Japan and the PRC, where many Japanese feel that the PRC is acting like a bully.
This round of letters targeting Shen Yun is unlikely to reassure the Japanese that China is a generally benign presence, indicated Koyu Nishimura, a Japanese critic and journalist, who read the letter sent to government officials.
“We have the freedom to think, freedom to speak, and freedom to believe. This is what the Communist Party is most frightened of,” he said in an interview with The Epoch Times. “The world is awakening to the real nature of the Communist Party.”
Nishimura continued: “If this has been happening each time the performers come to Japan, we should not keep silent. We must take action.” He added: “We shouldn’t forgive these actions.”
As a result of the letter-writing campaign, some of the sponsors of the hosting organization withdrew their support, and some newspapers have been reluctant to run advertising for Shen Yun.
In the history of Shen Yun’s performances this response is unusual. Letters of this kind are regularly sent to sponsors and politicians who support the hosting organizations in countries around the world, and are often ignored or dismissed. Sometimes they are roundly rebuffed.
In early 2011 one such letter reached Dr. Cathy Casey, a member of the city council of Auckland, New Zealand. “I was quite outraged by it,” she said in an interview at the time. “I’m really upset that the consulate should think it can influence elected members in a host country, where they’re our guest. … How dare they!”
After seeing Shen Yun on April 20, Hirosato Nakatsugawa, a member of Japan’s House of Representatives, said: “I deplore the Chinese Communist Party sabotaging the performing arts. It is just pure artistic performance. People want this emotional experience.”
Update: The article was updated to reflect the widespread nature of the letter-writing campaign, the content of the letters sent, and the impact they had in Japan.
Correction: The article was corrected to say that the letter seen by The Epoch Times was sent to a government official in Fukuoka, not a businessman there.
Translation by Yukari Werrell. Written in English by Matthew Robertson.
Read the original article in Japanese.