Misinformation About Coronavirus Targets US-Based Performing Arts Company

March 16, 2020 Updated: March 16, 2020
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In an attempt to dissuade audiences around the world from attending performances by the New York-based performing arts company Shen Yun, the Chinese regime has recently capitalized on the coronavirus outbreak to spread misinformation.

Earlier, rumors circulated on social media that some Shen Yun performers had been infected with the coronavirus, advising people not to attend the company’s shows in the United States.

This prompted health authorities in Utah to publicly dismiss the claims.

Recently, the campaign has also targeted Shen Yun in Canada.

Shen Yun’s presenter in the city of Calgary received emails from different senders with Chinese names, all with similarly worded messages claiming that Shen Yun performers have symptoms of the virus and are potentially endangering audiences in Canada.

In one email, the sender begins by urging Canadian authorities to cancel Shen Yun’s upcoming performances in the country, which are scheduled for mid- to late March.

But at the end of the email, the sender writes, “For the sake of the People’s safety, we urgently appeal to the Canada government to issue a warning to the performing theatres to stop the verve [sic] from coming to Australia.”

Li Xun, director of the Calgary Falun Dafa Association, Shen Yun’s presenter in the city, suspects that the emails are boilerplate messages being sent at the behest of the Chinese regime.

“Based on our experience in the past 14 years, the Chinese regime is behind these emails, and it’s trying to interfere with Shen Yun performances all around the world,” he said, noting the email mistakenly referring to Australia.

The performing arts company, founded in 2006 by artists in exile, has drawn the Chinese communist regime’s ire over its depiction onstage of China’s ongoing persecution of the spiritual group Falun Gong. As a result, Shen Yun has, over the years, experienced persistent attempts by the regime to thwart its performances.

Mysterious Emails

Li said in a phone interview that around March 5, his organization received more than 20 emails from different senders with almost the exact same wording.

An email examined by The Epoch Times alleges that the coronavirus outbreak in South Korea has affected Shen Yun.

“All of the Shen Yun Performing Arts [sic] had been affected in the area where the concert was scheduled to take place,” the email read.

Shen Yun performed in three cities in South Korea from Feb. 7 to Feb. 16 but canceled two shows in Chuncheon City scheduled for Feb. 22, located in the north of the country. The biggest cluster of infections is located in Daegu, located in the southeast.

The company recalled its troupe back to the United States before the outbreak escalated in South Korea on Feb. 20, when the number of infections doubled within a single day.

Systematic Slander

“This is not the only way they slander Shen Yun,” Li said. “On WeChat, a popular Chinese social media app, some Chinese are spreading similar rumors as the emails.”

Li said that in the 2000s, when Shen Yun first began performing in Calgary, the Chinese consulate sent emails to Canadian parliament members, calling for the performances to be canceled. “The lawmakers forwarded the emails to us. They didn’t believe what the consulate officials said,” Li said.

Li said people of unknown identity also sent emails to theater venues where Shen Yun was due to perform, with similar messages. The theaters forwarded the emails to the association. In internal discussions, the association and theater officials have raised the suspicion that these senders were backed by the Chinese consulate.

Positive Feedback

Despite the misinformation, Shen Yun’s shows in Canada are mostly sold out, according to local presenters.

Audience members have remarked on the suspected attacks from the Chinese regime.

“When empowered people doing things with excellence and discipline put on a performance like this, it must make every authoritarian in the world fearful. Because this is where the energy is, the power is, and the positive emotion is,” said lawyer David Newman, in an interview with The Epoch Times after a performance in Winnipeg on March 4.