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;
These were the sentiments of Member of the European Parliament (MEP) Tunne Kelam recently when addressing a conference on the ‘Cultural Subversion of the Chinese Regime’ after Chinese pressure forced the cancellation of a classical Chinese dance performance in Madrid, Spain.
Hundreds of tickets had been sold when Shen Yun performances, scheduled in early 2019 were abruptly cancelled due to pressure from the Chinese Embassy. 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 by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
There has been strong criticism from many in Brussels of the CCP’s overseas influence over the last years. My personal experience is that 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, and the truth we present to our European citizens.
Shen Yun is headquartered in New York. Its mission is to revive 5,000 years of Chinese culture through its performances, featuring classical dance, symphony orchestras, and singing. Since its founding in 2006, Shen Yun now operates six companies that tour worldwide. However, due to the CCP’s strict controls over cultural influence, Shen Yun has yet to perform in mainland China or Hong Kong. This January, the Shen Yun company arrived in Europe for their first performances and are scheduled to continue until May as part of their 2019 tour.
“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. “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 but the theatre backed out of the contract in January, just weeks before Shen Yun was due to perform. Hundreds of tickets had been sold, but the theatre said it could not host the show due to “technical difficulties”. 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 Organisation to Investigate the Persecution of Falun Gong (WOIPFG) how he and the Chinese Embassy coaxed the Royal Theatre into cancelling the performance.
“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 theatre visitors all over the European Union.”
This one case is a litmus test for many thousands of freedoms. If we in the European Institutions do not react here, then we can not be sure that our freedom will be guaranteed in the future. Our principles of freedom defines our democratic society, and it is imperative that we never compromise on these principles and founding values of the European Union.