The promoters of classical Chinese dance show Shen Yun have revealed for the first time a pattern of interference with UK and Irish performances stretching back over the last four years.
In 2008 Shen Yun performed for the first time in the UK at the newly revamped Royal Festival Hall.
Zek Halu was the main contact with Royal Festival Hall for the promoters at the time. He says that his contact at the RFH told him the Embassy staff had contacted the theatre and told them that there would be disturbances and problems with the audience.
Mr Halu says that he was also contacted by Special Branch police officers who knew that the Chinese Embassy had been interfering.
After the performances, he said the RFH had several e-mails from theatre-goers complaining about Shen Yun. “After I looked at a few of them, I realised they contained identical phrases. It was clearly an orchestrated effort – the same as in other cities,” he said.
In 2009, venue group Live Nation cancelled a performance of Shen Yun at Edinburgh’s Playhouse theatre, citing Live Nation’s business interests in China.
Eddie Aitken of promoters Tang Arts, said: “The manager of the Playhouse told me that he’d made an enquiry to Live Nation, the parent company of the Playhouse, about whether there would be any conflict of interest with their business in China. Live Nation said yes. In that case, unfortunately, he said, we’ll have to cancel the booking.”
Following a campaign by fans of the show, Live Nation reversed their decision, ultimately allowing Shen Yun to perform to a capacity audience.
In 2010 it was revealed that all foreign diplomatic missions in Dublin were written to by the Chinese Embassy, to “kindly remind” them not to attend the first performance of Shen Yun in the city.
“The Embassy kindly reminds you not to attend the show,” the letter, sent by ambassador Liu Biwei’s secretary, stated.
Attempts by the Chinese Embassy to derail upcoming performances at the London Coliseum have now been condemned by a growing list of MPs and councillors.
Brian Coleman, an outspoken member and former chair of the London Assembly, described the actions of the Embassy as disgraceful.
“It’s not up to the Chinese government to dictate to the English National Opera who they let the Coliseum to,” he said.
“There is a long and distinguished history here in Great Britain of allowing artistic freedom,” Mr Coleman told Sound of Hope Radio. “We are a free society here in London – the greatest artistic society in the world I would suggest – and we are not going to tolerate this sort of political interference from the Chinese government.”
Music professor Peter Graham saw Shen Yun for the first time back in 2008 at the RFH. He is full of praise for Shen Yun. What he highlights is not the music or the dancing – which he says are beautiful – but the values behind the performance, and the fact that Shen Yun includes modern stories of courage and compassion alongside the historical tales and legends.
Next page … “Those are values which are rooted in China from the early days, but if you know your history, through the communist rise, they made every effort to destroy those very values.