For more than a decade, Beijing has made numerous attempts to stop Shen Yun, a New York-based performing arts company, from reaching audiences worldwide.
The company’s mission to revive 5,000 years of Chinese civilization through music and dance, and its depictions of Chinese culture as divinely inspired, have irked the officially atheist communist regime.
Now, a letter recently obtained by The Epoch Times reveals that the Chinese regime tried to dissuade United Nations diplomats from attending Shen Yun’s performances, using hate propaganda to defame the company.
The two-page letter, dated Dec. 6, 2016, was from China’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations and addressed to “all Permanent and Observer Missions to the Union Nations.”
The letter said Shen Yun was staged by Falun Gong, which it slandered, claiming it was an evil group that “harms society and violates human rights.” It asked countries’ UN missions to “remind their diplomats and staff not to support or attend the [Shen Yun] show.” The letter was written in anticipation of a set of Shen Yun performances at Lincoln Center in New York City from Jan. 11 to 15, 2017.
An official stamp at the bottom of the letter confirms it was sent by China’s UN Permanent Mission. But it is conspicuously missing an official signature.
The letter pushes Beijing’s long-standing propaganda about Falun Gong, also known as Falun Dafa, an ancient Chinese spiritual practice based on meditative exercises and moral teachings of truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance. Introduced to the public in China in 1992, it soon attracted millions of adherents, with Western news organizations reporting in 1999 that 100 million Chinese had taken up the practice.
Then-Chinese Communist Party (CCP) leader Jiang Zemin viewed Falun Gong’s popularity as a threat to his rule and communist orthodoxy, and banned the practice.
Jiang launched a nationwide campaign in July 1999 to arrest and detain Falun Gong adherents in labor camps, prisons, black jails, and brainwashing centers, where they were often tortured and abused, with thousands confirmed to have been killed. They also have been targets for forced organ harvesting, as researchers say large numbers have been murdered through the extraction of their organs.
At the same time, Jiang mobilized the Party’s entire propaganda apparatus, including television, radio, newspapers, and even school textbooks to vilify the discipline and anyone who practiced it.
In 2006, a group of Falun Gong adherents founded Shen Yun in New York, with the mission of reviving traditional Chinese culture that was lost under decades of communist rule.
Part of Shen Yun’s performances depict stories of modern-day China, including the ongoing persecution of Falun Gong.
Out of fear that Beijing’s campaign against Falun Gong might be exposed to international audiences, the Chinese regime has sought to undermine Shen Yun’s performances since the company’s inception.
The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) also fears people in China and around the world becoming familiar with China’s authentic culture. The Shen Yun website says the CCP’s Marxist-atheist ideology sees traditional Chinese culture, “which is deeply rooted in Buddhist and Taoist worldviews,” as its “greatest rival.”
Today, Shen Yun has six touring groups of artists who simultaneously perform around the world. Its 2019 world tour will visit more than 130 cities. This January, Shen Yun put on 14 performances at Lincoln Center; all performances were sold out, according to the company’s website.
Shen Yun is set to return to Lincoln Center in March, with 15 more performances beginning March 6.
The Chinese regime has frequently deployed similar scare tactics. For instance, in New Zealand in early 2011, Liao Juhua, then-Chinese consul general in Auckland, sent letters to dozens of the city’s council members telling them not to attend Shen Yun’s performances.
“I’m really upset that the consulate should think it can influence elected members in a host country, where they’re our guest,” said Dr. Cathy Casey, then-Auckland City Council member, in a phone interview with The Epoch Times at the time.
Casey added, “This consul general has no right to tell me not to go to production in Auckland. How dare they? It’s completely inappropriate behavior as a diplomat in this country.”
Aside from pressuring foreign government officials, Beijing has also pressured theaters around the world not to host Shen Yun.
Most recently in Madrid, Spain, the Royal Theater abruptly canceled Shen Yun’s performances, citing technical difficulties. The cancellation was issued just weeks before the company’s scheduled performances on Jan. 31 and Feb. 2. However, the theater’s technical staff did not cite any technical issues when the contract was first signed.
An undercover investigation by the U.S. branch of the World Organization to Investigate the Persecution of Falun Gong, a non-profit organization that investigates human rights abuses perpetrated against Falun Gong adherents, revealed the Chinese regime’s pressuring tactics.
A person who identified himself as the Chinese Ambassador to Spain, Lu Fan, told investigators posing as Chinese officials that he pressured the theater director into using the excuse of a “technical issue” to cancel the performances.