Fri, Feb 29, 2008 - Page 13 News List

The Chinese gala that riles Beijing

The Communist Party is chasing a New York-based company around the world in an attempt to pressure venues into canceling performances. When Singapore got cold feet, an extra show was added in Chiayi

By Blake Carter  /  STAFF REPORTER

Shen Yun Chinese Spectacular promises "Chinese classical dance, costumes inspired by ancient scrolls and music that blends techniques from the West with melodies from the East."

PHOTO: COURTESY OF DIVINE PERFORMING ARTS

After viewing a four-minute ad online, seeing the brochure, reading reviews and interviewing the Taiwan spokesperson for the show, what will happen when Shen Yun Chinese Spectacular (神韻晚會) opens in Tainan City tonight is still something of a mystery.

The performance could be a celebration of Chinese culture and the best show you've ever seen, or it could be Falun Gong propaganda with torture scenes you wouldn't want your children to watch. It seems to depend on who you ask and who's doing the asking.

One thing is certain: The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is putting a lot of effort into keeping young and old alike from seeing the production - and in South Korea and Singapore, the party's tactics are working.

The Divine Performing Arts' Spectacular - scheduled to show at 22 venues in five cities throughout Taiwan and more than 60 cities worldwide - features some 70 dancers, musicians and singers. After three shows in Tainan, the gala will visit Kaohsiung, Taichung, Taipei and Chiayi.

Winifred Tung (童文薰), spokesperson for the New York-based company in Taiwan, says the performance "will transport the audience into an incredible, ancient land; the land of the true China."

A glance at the brochure makes it apparent why Divine Performing Arts' "true China" doesn't sit well with the CCP. The Taiwan Falun Dafa Institute (台灣法輪大法學會), a local branch of a perennial thorn in Beijing's side, is one of the show's sponsors.

Falun Dafa, or Falun Gong, is a spiritual practice based around meditation and breathing exercises with a motto of "truthfulness, compassion, forbearance." Some compare its teachings to Buddhism or Taoism; others equate it with cultish groups like the Scientologists.

Performance notes

What: Shen Yun Chinese Spectacular (神韻晚會)

Tickets: NT$500 to NT$3,000; available through ibon machines at 7-Elevens nationwide

Language: In Chinese with English subtitles

Tainan

When: Tonight at 7:30pm; tomorrow at 2pm and 7:30pm and Sunday at 7:30pm

Where: Tainan Municipal Cultural Center (台南市立文化中心), 332, Chunghwa East Rd Sec 3, Tainan City (台南市中華東路三段332號)

Kaohsiung

When: Monday to March 7 at 7:30pm; March 8 at 2pm

Where: Labor Recreation Center (勞工育樂中心), 132 Chungshan 3rd Rd, Chienchen Dist, Kaohsiung City (高雄市前鎮區中山三路132號)

Taichung

When: March 9 at 2pm and 7:30pm; March 10 through March 12 at 7:30pm

Where: Huisun Auditorium, Chung Hsing University (中興大學惠蓀堂), 250 Kuokuang Rd, Taichung City (台中市國光路250號)

Taipei

When: March 15 and March 16 at 2pm and 7:30pm; March 17 and March 18 at 7:30pm

Where: Taipei International Convention Center (國際會議中心), 1, Xinyi Rd Sec 5, Taipei City (台北市信義路5段1號)

Chiayi

When: March 20 at 2pm and 7:30

Where: National Chung Cheng University Auditorium (嘉義國立中正大學大禮堂), 168 University Rd, Minsyong Township, Chiayi County (嘉義縣民雄鄉大學路168號)

On the Net:

www.bestchineseshows.com


The CCP added Falun Gong to its blacklist - along with activists, journalists and drug dealers - after a crowd of 10,000 practitioners surprised authorities with a peaceful sit-in at the Communist Party headquarters in 1999. Since then, followers in China have mysteriously disappeared, fallen out of windows and given their organs up for transplant. Most of the world says they're persecuted; the CCP says adherents hurt themselves and coerce others into doing the same.

The Spectacular Web site says that last year's tour sold 200,000 tickets and the New York-based company expects a total audience of 650,000 this year. That number may drop if Beijing gets its way.

"The Chinese Communist Party is very afraid of this troupe's performances," Tung says. "When they find out we've booked a stadium somewhere, they contact the government and try to get it stopped."

The company sold 6,000 tickets for three shows scheduled earlier this week in Pusan, South Korea, before its Korean outlet caved in to pressure from the Chinese embassy and pulled out at the last minute. And there have been problems elsewhere: Taiwan has the CCP and pushovers in Singapore to thank for the addition of a second performance in Chiayi.

But the sponsor is not the only aspect of the show that upsets Beijing. According to an online article in the Epoch Times - "an independent voice" and "proud sponsor" of Spectacular not mentioned in the Taiwan brochure - the performance includes acts "depicting the persecution against Falun Gong members that has been carried out by the regime." (Epoch is the Falun Gong's US newspaper.)

Tung downplays this aspect of the performance, saying that of 20 acts, only two have to do with Falun Gong.

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