A Chinese opera singer has sparked anger by performing a Soviet-era war ballad amidst the ruins of a theatre that was bombed by Russian forces in March 2022, killing hundreds who were sheltering there.
Wang Fang, a 38-year-old singer, accompanied a delegation of Chinese social media personalities who visited the region last week.
According to Russian news agency RT, the Chinese delegation visited the Russian-occupied Crimean Peninsula on Sept. 7.
Russian authorities and the Chinese delegation discussed cooperation on tourism and exchanges of music conservatory students. They also talked about the investment potential of the Crimean Peninsula and reportedly agreed to establish commercial contacts.
The news agency reported that on the same day, the Chinese delegation visited the Russian-occupied city of Mariupol, in the Donetsk region of southeastern Ukraine.
Reported Bombing of Civilians in MariupolThe theater was used as a bomb shelter during the siege of the city last year. On March 16, 2022, Russian fighter planes bombed the theater where at least 1,000 civilians were thought to be sheltered. The strike killed an estimated 600 civilians, including children, although the word "Дети" ("children" in Russian) was written in large letters on the open space in front and behind the theater, visible even in satellite images.
After the performance, Ms. Wang also met with Denis Pushilin, the Russian-installed leader of the Donetsk region.
Mr. Pushilin posted the video of Ms. Wang singing the popular Russian war song on Russian social media VKontakte.
Sergey Aksyonov, the Russian-installed head of the annexed Crimea, said on Telegram, "Our President (Putin) often points out that China is a brother country of Russia, and the visit of the representatives of Chinese media and culture confirmed this.”
Mr. Aksionov also said, “At the invitation of the Chinese delegation, we will definitely consider visiting China." He posted photos of his meeting with the Chinese delegation.
The incident drew an outraged response from Ukraine. A spokesman for Ukraine’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs asked China to come forward with an explanation.
Oleg Nikolenko, spokesman for the Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said in a statement on Facebook Sept. 8, “The performance of the song “Katyusha” by Chinese ‘opera singer’ Wang Fang on the ruins of the Mariupol Drama Theater, where the Russian army killed more than 600 innocent people, is an example of complete moral degradation.”
Nikolenko said of the Chinese delegation, “Their arrival is illegal. It grossly violates Ukrainian legislation regulating the crossing of the state border by foreigners.”
“Ukraine respects the territorial integrity of China and expects the Chinese side to explain the purpose of the Chinese citizens’ stay in Mariupol, as well as the way they entered the temporarily occupied Ukrainian city.”
The CCP has yet to publicly respond.
However, Radio Free Asia reported Monday that government censors were moving to erase Ms. Wang's performance from Chinese social media platforms, in a sign that Beijing was not pleased with the incident.
Searches for "Wang Fang Ukraine" and a related hashtag on the Sina Weibo social media platform showed up in search results but were empty when the link was clicked on Sept. 11, Radio Free Asia said.
A 'Battlefield Rose'Ms. Wang's husband, Mr. Zhou, was promoted to membership in the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference as a reward for his pro-CCP propaganda.
He wrote on Chinese social media Weibo on Sept. 8 that he accompanied his wife to Moscow and sent her by train to the “front line” in Ukraine. He emphasized that Ms. Wang is not a political figure, describing her poetically as a "battlefield rose."
Mr. Zhou also claimed that Ms. Wang performed in the ruins of a theater "bombed by Ukrainian Nazis," referencing a Russian-backed rumor that Ukrainian forces were responsible for the Mariupol theater bombing.
Chen Weijian, editor-in-chief of Beijing Spring, a monthly Chinese-language magazine dedicated to the promotion of human rights, democracy and social justice in China, told The Epoch Times on Sept. 9 that under CCP rule, there is really no such thing as a non-governmental foreign visit.
"Wang Fang is not an ordinary tourist. She is the wife of Zhou Xiaoping, a member of the regime's Political Consultative Conference. It can be said that she has a semi-civilian and semi-governmental mission. It is very likely that the CCP authorities intend to let them out [to visit and perform the song in Mariupol] to test the outside world's reaction,” he said.
Mr. Zhou, a blogger and online commentator, frequently publishes “patriotic" and anti-Western articles on Chinese social media.
'Katyusha'“Katyusha" was written in 1938, inspired by the Battle of Lake Khasan, the site of a Soviet invasion into what was then Japanese-controlled territory near the border between China, Korea, and Russia.
Russian poet Mikhail Isakovsky, inspired by the beauty of the landscape, wrote the words to the song, which tells of a Russian woman's longing for her beloved, who is far away fighting for his country. Isakovsky's friend, composer Matvey Blanter, wrote the melody to the song/military march.
The song was sung by Soviet forces fighting Nazi Germany, and subsequently spread around the world.
"Katyusha" became popular in China after the communists came to power in 1949.
Song Guocheng, a researcher at the Center for International Relations at Taiwan's National Chengchi University, told The Epoch Times on Sept. 9, “We Chinese have had one of the most basic moral precepts since ancient times, which is, don’t do to others what you don’t want others to do to you.
"Once the Soviet Union hurt China. China today is actually inflicting this kind of pain on Ukraine. Isn’t this just doing to others what you don’t want others to do to you?”
“It completely ignores the basic dignity of humanity to sing and dance on this wound [of Ukrainian people] to help the invaders show off their power. This has fully exposed the most evil nature of the Chinese Communist regime,” Mr Song said.