False Bomb Threats and Sabotage—How the Campaign Against Shen Yun Is Escalating

False Bomb Threats and Sabotage—How the Campaign Against Shen Yun Is Escalating
The performance, “Flowing Sleeves,” from the 2009 Shen Yun Performing Arts program. The Chinese regime has targeted the company for nearly two decades. (Shen Yun Performing Arts)
March 25, 2024
March 29, 2024

In the course of just over a week, three false bomb threats have been made against Shen Yun Performing Arts—a top target of the Chinese regime due to its portrayal of “China before communism.”

In addition to the bomb threats, which turned out to be empty, two of Shen Yun’s buses were vandalized in such a way to suggest an intent to cause a serious accident.

The incidents are the latest in what appears to be an escalating campaign by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) against the New York-based performing arts company.

Shen Yun has become a global cultural force through its artistry and display of traditional Chinese culture, shaking the foundation of Beijing’s control over the cultural narrative.

The first bomb threat targeted Shen Yun’s headquarters in upstate New York. The threat was made in a March 14 email sent from an email account with the sender’s name in Chinese. No explosives were found.

“I placed a remote-control bomb at Dragon Springs temple,” the email obtained by The Epoch Times read. Dragon Springs is the name of the site that is home to Shen Yun’s training facilities and several Tang Dynasty-style temples.

A Shen Yun representative told The Epoch Times that the FBI is investigating the incident. The Epoch Times reached out to the FBI for comment.

The other two threats were made to theaters with upcoming Shen Yun performances, including one on March 22 to a theater in California as Shen Yun was preparing for a weekend of shows.

“We randomly placed a lot of bombs in the theater,” the email sent to theater administrators read. “If you don’t want us to detonate the bombs, please refuse Shen Yun Performing Arts to perform here immediately!”

The sender’s name was in Chinese characters, different from the first threatening email, and the subject line stated in English, “The Theater has been bombed,” according to the email obtained by The Epoch Times.

The curtain call for Shen Yun Performing Arts at the David H. Koch Theater at Lincoln Center in New York on Jan 11, 2015. (Larry Dai/Epoch Times)

“If the show starts successfully, we will directly detonate these bombs!!!” it said. The email included a stock image of two bombs that had previously been published online.

Upon receiving the email, theater staff evacuated the premises and local law enforcement conducted a search with bomb technicians and bomb detection K-9s, but found nothing.

“This report was unfounded,” a spokesperson for the Santa Barbara Police Department told The Epoch Times. “As a precaution, law enforcement checked the theater throughout the weekend, with no evidence of any type of explosive device.”

The spokesperson said the case and information “were forwarded to the FBI for further investigation.”

The third threat was sent the same weekend to a theater in Vancouver, but performances weren’t interrupted.

“I can confirm there was a bomb threat to the theater on Saturday afternoon. An investigation took place and it revealed the threat was false,” a Vancouver Police Department spokesperson told The Epoch Times.

“Shen Yun shows the world just how profound, inspiring, and magnificent authentic Chinese culture was before the CCP seized power, while also offering a captivating vision for how wonderful China could be once again without the CCP,” said Ying Chen, a vice president with Shen Yun Performing Arts.

“This is the last thing the CCP wants demonstrated so clearly on stages around the world, and so for more than 15 years, they have stopped at nothing to thwart Shen Yun.

“Of course, we take these threats seriously and ensure law enforcement authorities are involved, but I think it’s also important to understand what these emails really are—the last-ditch effort of a regime to hide the truth. It is vital that they do not succeed.”

Tour Buses Sabotaged

A week earlier, on March 15, two of Shen Yun’s tour buses had their tires slit in Costa Mesa, California. The tires were slashed in the exact same manner as in previous incidents: halfway through the rubber so that the tire wouldn’t deflate but would burst when driven on the freeway.
The Costa Mesa Police Department detailed an “approximately 7-inch slash on the side wall” of a tire on a Shen Yun tour bus, on March 15, 2024. The tire was cut in such a way that it wouldn’t deflate but would burst when driven on the freeway. (Courtesy of Shen Yun security)

A police report from the Costa Mesa Police Department detailed an “approximately 7-inch slash on the side wall.”

“The damage looked like a fresh cut in the rubber,” the police report states.

Due to previous similar incidents in the United States and Canada, in which the tires of Shen Yun’s tour buses were cut in the same way, the company has been forced to use security personnel to watch its buses day and night. In Costa Mesa, however, the buses were taken to a local garage for routine maintenance, and the cuts were noticed after they were picked up.

The police report notes that Shen Yun representatives “suspected someone from the CCP followed the buses” to the service center and “took advantage of the bus not being guarded, and intentionally damaged the bus.”

Police are still investigating the incident.

The slash on the side wall of a sabotaged tire on a Shen Yun tour bus “looked like a fresh cut,” according to the Costa Mesa Police Department, on March 15, 2024. The tire was cut in such a way that it wouldn’t deflate but would burst when driven on the freeway. (Courtesy of Shen Yun security)

CCP Fears Shen Yun

The CCP views Shen Yun “as very dangerous” because of its efforts to revive and depict traditional Chinese culture, Trevor Loudon, an expert on communist infiltration in the West, previously told The Epoch Times.

“They [the CCP] want to say Chinese culture is socialist,” he said.

Shen Yun’s popularity has grown exponentially over the years, with the company now performing in 200 cities across the world for audiences totaling more than 1 million people a year. Its performances have been lauded by theatergoers around the world. Actress Cate Blanchett called it “exquisitely beautiful,” and author and motivational speaker Tony Robbins described it as “magnificent.”

Before escaping to the United States, many of Shen Yun’s artists experienced religious persecution firsthand in China for their belief in Falun Gong.

Falun Gong is an ancient Chinese spiritual practice consisting of slow-moving exercises and spiritual self-improvement based on the principles of truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance.

Former CCP head Jiang Zemin launched his persecution against the group in 1999 after government surveys estimated that 70 million to 100 million people were practicing—figures that outnumbered the Party’s membership at the time.

Human rights advocates have estimated that millions of Falun Gong adherents have faced unjust arrest, kidnapping, torture, and death at the regime’s hands.

Paramilitary police stand guard on Tiananmen Square in Beijing on March 10, 2021. (Noel Celis/AFP via Getty Images)

To intimidate Shen Yun artists, CCP police have badgered their relatives in China, and even imprisoned some of them.

In previous years, Chinese embassies and consulates around the world have written to theaters to pressure them to stop Shen Yun from performing. In nearly all instances, the pressure was unsuccessful.

“First, they threatened governments to not allow Shen Yun. When that didn’t really work, they started threatening theaters. When that didn’t really work, they started slashing our bus tires,” Ms. Chen said.

“When that didn’t stop us, they started smear campaigns online and sent crazy emails to theater managers. Now, they have stooped even lower, sending ‘bomb threat’ emails.”

Recently, members of one of the troupes were harassed at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago by a customs official speaking Mandarin with a mainland accent. The incident has spurred several Congress members to call for an investigation.
Separate from the string of incidents, Shen Yun artists have been disturbed to learn that The New York Times has been working on a hit piece on the company, The Epoch Times recently reported.

An article attacking Shen Yun published in a major American newspaper would be a boon for the CCP in its propaganda efforts, said Larry Liu, a deputy director of the Falun Dafa Information Center (FDIC), a nonprofit dedicated to monitoring the persecution of Falun Gong.

The New York Times maintains offices in China and, despite setbacks, has invested substantial efforts into maintaining and expanding its China presence as well as access to the Chinese media market.

Correction: The first bomb threat was made on March 14. The Epoch Times regrets the error.