After the Chinese regime pressure forced the cancellation of a classical Chinese dance performance in Madrid, the Spanish capital, European politicians issued strong criticism of the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) overseas influence operations.
Thousands of tickets had been sold when the Shen Yun performances, scheduled between Jan. 31 and Feb. 2, were abruptly cancelled due to pressure from the Chinese embassy, as previously reported by The Epoch Times.
Shen Yun Performing Arts includes in its dance performances portrayals of contemporary China, including the CCP’s ongoing persecution of the banned spiritual practice Falun Gong—a topic considered taboo to the Party.
Members of the European Parliament held a conference at the European Parliament building on March 7, where the CCP’s stab at Shen Yun was cited as an example of Beijing’s aggressive subversion.
“With this example of Shen Yun, we touch a very important topic, not just for the question of the situation in China, but for us, Europeans. It’s about our future,” Henri Malosse, former president of the European Economic and Social Committee, a EU’s consultative body, said in the conference.
“If we yield to the pressure by a foreign power, to allow performing, or not to allow it, according to their will and taste, we will all lose,” said Tunne Kelam, MEP from Estonia.
Shen Yun is headquartered in upstate New York. Its website states that its mission is to revive 5,000 years of Chinese culture through its performances, which are two-hour shows featuring classical dance, symphony orchestras, and singing. Since its founding in 2006, Shen Yun has come to operate six companies that tour worldwide, mostly in North America, Europe, and Asia.
Due to the CCP’s strict controls over art and media, Shen Yun has yet to perform in mainland China or Hong Kong. In the 2019 tour, Shen Yun companies arrived in Europe for their first performance of the season on Jan. 6 and are scheduled to continue on the continent until May 12.
“I find it absolutely impressive in terms of beauty, aesthetics, agility, of course, talent and speed!” Princess Léa of Belgium told NTD Television after she watched the show in Geneva on Feb. 28. “We are carried away by the rhythm of this show from the beginning.”
In Spain, Shen Yun had arranged to play three shows at Madrid’s Teatro Real (Royal Theater), but the theater backed out of the contract in January, just weeks before Shen Yun was slated to perform. Thousands of tickets had been sold, but the theater said it couldn’t host the show due to “technical difficulties,” the Royal Theater confirmed in an emailed statement to The Epoch Times.
However, other shows were able to perform directly before and after Shen Yun’s time slot.
An investigation conducted by an NGO suggested that the Chinese regime had had a hand in the cancellation. In a phone call, Lü Fan, the Chinese Ambassador to Spain told an undercover investigator working with World Organization to Investigate the Persecution of Falun Gong (WOIPFG) how he and Chinese Embassy coaxed the Royal Theater into cancelling the Shen Yun performance.
“By using the CCP’s control of the large Chinese market as an enticement, Lü Fan and the theater’s director jointly planned to cancel the Shen Yun performances under the pretext of technical difficulties,” WOIPFG said in its statement.
WOIPFG is a non-profit organization that investigates human-rights abuses perpetrated by the CCP regime against Falun Gong.
A Litmus Test of Freedom
“For me it is totally unacceptable. Because it is the decision of European theatres what they show to their citizens,” said Helga Trüpel, MEP from Germany. “I think we should not give in to that pressure by CCP, because it’s our decision on what we show to theater visitors all over the European Union.”
“This one case is a litmus test for many thousands of freedoms. If we don’t react here [in European Parliament], then we can not be sure that our freedom is surely guaranteed for the next years,” Kelam, the Estonian MP, said. “You can make compromise in everyday politics. But on the principle of the freedom of expression which defines our democratic society, you can’t make any compromise at all.”
Trüpel accused the CCP of damaging Chinese culture since it took power in 1949. “What the Communist Party has been doing for decades is to reinforce its own power by depriving the Chinese of their old traditions and culture.”
MEPs and others who attended the parliamentary conference discussed other CCP operations in Europe, with prominent topics being the Beijing-funded Confucius Institute (CI) language and cultural programs, and Huawei, the Chinese tech company.
A previous version of this article misstated the people in attendance at the conference. The Epoch Times regrets the error.