Jun 30 2015

My LinkedIn Account Just Blocked in China

LinkedIn just alerted me that my account has been blocked in China. They were very transparent about it and I’ve asked them for more information.

I was trying to think of what had triggered it. I had recently updated my profile and in that update I included an article I had written in Chinese for Beijing Spring – an overseas Chinese publication. Ironically, the subject of the article was Chinese censorship and interference with overseas freedom of expression, specifically in the world of performing arts by trying (unsuccessfully) to stop performances by Shen Yun.

Here’s the Beijing Spring article

And here’s the LinkedIn message:

Hi Leeshai,
Your LinkedIn profile is an integral part of how you present your professional self to the world. That’s why we believe it’s important to inform you that, due to the presence of specific content on your profile, your profile is not currently viewable in China. This includes your public activity on LinkedIn, such as your comments and items you share with your network. Your profile and activity continues to remain viewable throughout the rest of the countries in which LinkedIn is available.
In February 2014, we began offering a localized version of LinkedIn in China. We believe that people everywhere can benefit from Chinese individuals connecting with each other and LinkedIn members in other parts of the world, and that the creation of economic opportunity can have a profound impact on their lives and the lives of their families and communities.
While we strongly support freedom of expression, we recognized when we launched that we would need to adhere to the requirements of the Chinese government in order to operate in China. We also aim to be transparent about our actions and their impact on our members; if you want to learn more about how you can ensure that your profile and activity is viewable within China, please contact Customer Support.
LinkedIn Trust & Safety

Apr 15 2014

Chinese Consulate Promotes Shen Yun in Barcelona

After seven years touring around the world, in its eighth season Shen Yun finally made its Spain debut at Barcelona’s Teatre Nacional de Catalunya, April 9-12. Promotion of the four performances received a boost from the consulate of the People’s Republic of China, though that may not have been its original intent. 

The Chinese consulate attempted to force the cancellation of the shows by pressuring the national theater and Spain’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

According to Spain’s El Mundo, the consulate used “the same forcefulness with which it prohibits inconvenient culture in its own country.”  In a personal visit, the consulate asked the theater to cancel the performances on the grounds that it “went against the interests of the Chinese Communist Party.” To the foreign ministry, the consulate suggested that failure to cancel the performance might “compromise” Spain-China relations, including economic ties.

The consulate further claimed that Shen Yun’s members were “illiterate and crazy.”

Carlos Iglesias, a human rights attorney famous for indicting high-ranking Chinese Communist Party officials including former chief Jiang Zemin for genocide and torture under Spain’s universal jurisdiction laws, has sued the Chinese consulate.

The consulate’s interference attempt drew public attention in the Catalonian capital. In addition to El Mundo, several Spanish newspapers and television stations (see Informativos.net) reported about the performance and the consulate’s attempts to block them.

Walking down the street one morning, several Shen Yun dancers were greeted by a thumbs up from passersby who told the dancers it was incredible that Shen Yun cannot perform in China today.



El Mundo article by Juan Pablo Cardenal, author of China’s Silent Army: The Pioneers, Traders, Fixers and Workers Who Are Remaking the World in Beijing’s Image.

The Epoch Times: Chinese Consulate Tries to Cancel Shen Yun in Spain.


Apr 10 2014

Red Flags Over Brussels: Embassy Can’t Quite Hide Shen Yun from Xi Jinping

Shen Yun Performing Arts was set to play at Belgium’s National Theatre in Brussels April 2-6. The scary part for the Chinese Embassy, other than the presence of EU dignitaries in Shen Yun’s audience, was that Xi Jinping was expected in town. The Chinese Communist Party chief was on his way to the European capital heading a 200-person delegation for a summit as part of his tour of Europe.

At first, the embassy tried canceling the performances, demanding of the theater that it be done, saying the shows endangered Xi Jinping. But soon, the embassy faced a much more conspicuous problem.

Xi and the delegation were staying at Brussels’ Sheraton, only a couple blocks from the theater. The main road, Boulevard du Jardin Botanique, was decorated with large Shen Yun banners hanging high on light poles. BHS Promotion, the advertising agency in charge of the campaign, had even placed one banner 15 feet away from the entrance to Xi’s hotel. There was no way Xi and the delegation would not see the Shen Yun banner – many times a day – throughout their visit.

The banner was a terrible threat. It featured a single dancer, a smiling Angelia Wang, in the air doing a split, her orange skirt and soft pink sleeves against a blue background. The words “Shen Yun” appeared above her and the show’s date and theater name below. The embassy decided not to let Xi see it.

We don’t know whether it was acting on orders from Beijing, was overzealous (“too left” would be the Chinese expression), or was afraid of being embarrassed in front of the boss over failing to block the show. Whatever the motivation, making the banner go away became the theme of the slapstick skit that followed.

The show’s local organizers first heard of trouble the week of the visit, when they received a phone call from Brussels police. “We have to take the banners down,” the police said, adding that that it was because of Xi’s visit.

With Xi scheduled to arrive Saturday, the show’s hosting organization, the Belgian Falun Gong Association, called a press conference for Friday, March 28. In a press release, the Association said that the ad agency it hired “received a written request the same day from the police zone of Ixelles to remove all posters in their district for 2 days, since they would be on the route taken by President Xi Jinping.” The press release asked Belgium’s government and media to investigate, calling the request “Censorship of commercial advertising at another country’s demand.”

In response, European Union Vice President Edward McMillan-Scott wrote to the Mayor of Brussels urging noncompliance with the embassy’s demands. A green Member of Parliament posted a statement on her social network. Media began reporting the story. “Belgian Police Try to Censor Posters Ahead of China Visit,” wrote the EU Observer.

The police backtracked, saying, “We made a mistake, you don’t need to take it down.”

But that was just the beginning. As the press conference was concluding at Thon Hotel, which was right next door to the Sheraton, a reporter came up saying someone was trying to take down the banner. Nicholas Schols from the hosting organization rushed over. It was a security guard from Sheraton. “It’s in front of our hotel,” he told Schols, “our coming guests won’t like it,” he said. “But this is technically our property, since we paid for the advertising,” Schols replied. And with media present, the security guard went no further and left.

That evening, around 9, a group of people came and tried removing the banner again. They said they were from the mayor’s office. “Why are you taking it down?” asked the hosting organization’s Mattias Slaats, who by then was on duty watching the banner. “The advertising company didn’t pay taxes.” Slaats called their supervisor, and they soon left as well.

On Saturday, Xi’s delegation started checking into the Sheraton. A group of Chinese people gathered outside the hotel in front of the banner and tried lifting the PRC and Belgium flags to cover it. But he banner was too high and the flags could not reach to cover all of it. Angelia Wang’s smiling face and “Shen Yun” could still be seen above the red flag.

On Sunday, Xi was seen coming into the Sheraton. Whenever he moved in and out, the Chinese tried covering the banner. They did this not only in front of Sheraton, but also along the entire boulevard, as there were four banners near the hotel, part of a 36-banner advertising campaign.

In the beginning, when they spotted Xi’s motorcade, this Chinese welcoming committee would lift the flags in front of the banner and wait for Xi to pass. Later, they used packaging tape to connect their flags’ sticks to the street poles from which the banners hung. Around each banner stood 20-30 people – 7-8 would cover the banner with the flags, and 20 others would stand around it. About 10 of them stood in a circle around the banner holding large flags to keep Belgian media from being able to get a good angle to photograph it. There were at least 20 people at each location.

Throughout, Belgian police were present and did nothing. It seems like their final decision was – we won’t take down the banners, but we also won’t stop the embassy if it tries to block them.

Who Were These People?

According to Lixin Yang from the organization hosting Shen Yun, the people lifting the flags to block the banners were Chinese students and Chinese people associated with the embassy. He and others spoke with them during the long downtimes between the motorcade’s brief appearances.

“We didn’t know we were brought over to block a banner,” one of them told Yang. “We thought we were coming to welcome the Chinese president.” Yang said some of the Chinese who went there ended up buying Shen Yun tickets.

Perhaps the embassy should have invited Xi to the show.

Xi Jinping, if you are reading this: maybe next time you’re in town, you and your wife can come see the performance, and then extend an invitation to perform in Beijing.


The Epoch Times: Chinese Embassy Seeks to Remove Shen Yun Banners in Brussels

EU Observer: Belgian Police Try to Censor Posters Ahead of China Visit

Mar 30 2014

Chinese Embassy Epic Fail in Berlin

From March 23-26, Shen Yun successfully performed at Berlin’s Stage Theater AM Potsdamer Platz. But the previous month, the Berlin Chinese Embassy began yet another unsuccessful attempt to cancel Shen Yun performances.

On February 4, the embassy’s cultural attaché called the theater’s marketing and sales manager, Mr. Jörg Seefeld, to arrange a meeting. The embassy would not say what the meeting was about over the phone, but asked for it to be the next day. And so on February 5 at 2pm, Mr. Seefeld received two embassy representatives – the cultural attaché and another individual who would not identify himself. The attaché did most of the talking over the next hour.

According the Mr. Seefeld, who later relayed the information, here is how the conversation went:

  • In the beginning, it was all beating around the bush. The embassy expressed interest in learning more about the theater and exploring potential future collaboration with companies from China.
  • Then they said, as if casually recalling it, “hey, we heard you have a Chinese performance.” They started inquiring about it in detail. The initial tone was relatively polite, saying, “Oh, we heard it was the Falun Dafa Association hosting it, is there a contract?” Mr. Seefeld confirmed there was a contract with the association, but when the embassy inquired further about the contract and how much had been paid to secure the venue, Mr. Seefeld would not tell them anything else. He said that the theater’s contracts stipulate that he cannot disclose detailed information to other parties.
  • The embassy appeared very interested in finding out: 1. how much money the Falun Dafa Association spent on booking the theater. 2. Whether the hosting association had booked a date for 2015 and what that date was. Mr. Seefeld would not disclose any further information, even though the venue had done even been booked for 2015 yet.
  • Since the embassy could not get the information they wanted, they changed tactics – they began slandering Falun Dafa. But that did not change anything, as the theater manager had already learned about Falun Dafa ahead of time.
  • The embassy then told the theater to cancel the contract. Mr. Seefeld again refused, saying the contract was already signed.
  • Then came the threats. The embassy said that companies from China would not come to this theater. Mr. Seefeld replied that this was fine, as the theater was already overbooked. Finally, they threatened him that if he ever wanted to go to China he would not be able to get a visa. Mr. Seefeld said he did not have time to go anyway.

That was the end of their strategy, so they left. The next day, the manager called a representative of the Falun Dafa Association and told this story.

The story was then reported in an article by the German The Epoch Times as well as in Berliner Zeitung, in an article that starts: “It sounds like a piece from the Cold War.”

It turns out that was an apt reference. Mr. Seefeld is from East Germany and had been in imprisoned by the GDR’s communist regime. He later said he was infuriated by the meeting and was just holding back his anger. If they were not diplomats, he said, he would have pounded the table and given them a lesson: “You have so many human rights problems in you country, how dare you come here and tell us what to do?”


Mar 15 2014

Pattern of Attempts to Tamper with Shen Yun Vehicles

Whenever we arrive at a theater, the local staff are surprised to see we have guards watching our busses and trucks 24/7. “Is that really necessary?” they ask.

The vehicle incidents started in 2010. After performing in Ottawa and driving to Montreal that January, our bus driver noticed a strange cut mark on a front tire of the dancers’ bus. Upon inspection, bus service personnel in Montreal said that the slashes were made by a blade. The tire was slashed in such a way that the tire would not go flat right away. Only several layers of rubber were cut, so that the tire would burst after it heated up and expanded while driving. The fact it was the front tire that was slashed is critical, because if the tire burst the bus would lose control – with 50 people on board.  The case was reported to Canadian police.

Three days later, a tire on the bus of one of Shen Yun’s other companies burst at 1am while traveling in the United States on I-40 West between Memphis and Little Rock, AR. This was the first time in four years one of the company’s buses had a burst or flat tire. Two days later, while in Little Rock, the same company’s truck, during a pre-trip inspection, discovered slashes on one of its tires.

With guards watching the vehicles, no further incidents were reported in 2011 and 2012. But over the last couple of years, our guards have noticed an increase in suspicious activities around our vehicles, including direct attempts to tamper with them.

In January 2013, outside of Fox Theater in Atlanta, GA, two men were spotted lingering closely behind Shen Yun’s truck, which was parked near the theater’s backstage entrance. A security guard finally approached them and the men left. Later, upon inspection, a gash was found on the truck’s fuel tank, though no puncture had been made.

The following month another incident took place, this one in Fort Worth, TX.  At 4am, a security guard watching Shen Yun’s vehicles saw a vehicle approach the Shen Yun prop truck. A man stepped out of the vehicle and went over to the Shen Yun truck’s gas tank and began inserting a hose into it. The security guard approached this man and challenged him: “What are you doing?” The man quickly hid whatever he was holding and said: “Nothing, just servicing the truck” (at 4:00! No truck service had been requested). As the guard continued questioning him, the man stepped into his vehicle, where another person was waiting, and they quickly drove away, almost hitting the guard. The guard chased him in his own car and called the police. The guard, and later the police, chased this vehicle for several miles, before the two men abandoned their vehicle and fled on foot in a suburb called Irving. The police could not find them.

And then in March 2014, soon after arriving at Costa Mesa, CA ahead of a five-day run at the prestigious Segerstrom Center for the Arts, guards watching Shen Yun’s buses and truck noticed suspicious activity around it. At 1:15 am, four security guards noticed a man in his 20s quietly approaching the vehicles. When confronted by the guards, he ran away. Four hours later, around 5am, another man approached, but when a guard spotted him, he ran off as well.

Aug 31 2013

Suspicious Burglary of Shen Yun Choreographer’s House

Award-winning dancer Chen Yungchia has been a principal dancer and one of Shen Yun’s key choreographers since he joined the company in 2007. On the evening of August 22, he returned from work at Shen Yun’s New York headquarters to his nearby home in Otisville to find that it had been ransacked. Gone were two laptops and a DVD player that looked like a computer. Not stolen, however, were an expensive watch, gold jewelry, as well as his passport and green card.

Chen believes the break-in was carried out by agents of the Chinese Communist Party, or someone hired by them, and had two purposes:

First, the robbers (or robber) were not after money but after information – most likely inside information about Shen Yun. Sensitive data might include lists of performers, especially those with PRC nationality and family back in China, or industry secrets such as Shen Yun’s special digital projection effects. They might also have been after hints of his upcoming choreography projects; PRC-based performing arts companies have been known to stage programs with themes similar to Shen Yun’s shortly after Shen Yun produces them.

Second, Chen told me he thinks the daytime break-in was also meant to send a message – we are watching you! He found his belongings strewn all over almost as if to scare him. They entered through a back window that does not face the street and also seemed to know the exact date to break in. Normally his son would have been home from school for the summer, but that particular day he was attending dance camp.

Perhaps Chen and his family were fortunate not to be home. The incident is reminiscent of a break-in that took place in 2006 in an Atlanta suburb. Dr. Peter Yuan Li, a Falun Gong practitioner and technology specialist who was part of a team working to free China’s Internet through proxy servers, was beaten in his home as Asian robbers went exclusively after his computers and documents. They left his daughter’s jewelry and camcorder, and left Dr. Li with 15 stitches.

According to the Forbes article “When All Else Fails: Threats”:

“The two first men who pushed their way into his home in the Atlanta suburb were armed with a knife and gun and spoke Korean, Li tells Forbes. But once they had taped his eyes and bound him, Li says he heard another one or two men enter his house. One of these men spoke to him in Mandarin and demanded to know where he kept his “locker” and documents. The intruders ransacked the house and forced open locked file cabinets. After the men left, Li was able to escape into the street, where a neighbor was able to help him and call the police.”

Feb 24 2013

New Wave of Email Attacks on Theaters

The Patron Manager at Denver’s Buell Theatre told local presenter Vivian Lam that the theater had been receiving emails from people posing as Falun Dafa practitioners and Shen Yun fans. At least one of Buell’s management personnel received these emails almost every day.

In a repetition of a tactic used in 2010 (New Jersey, Rhode Island, and California), the content of these emails consisted of a misrepresentation of Falun Dafa’s beliefs. The apparent motivation was to scare the theater by portraying Falun Dafa practitioners and Shen Yun fans as zealots.

No one in the Falun Dafa community is known to have sent them. The emails, though daily, were sent from different accounts each time.

The local presenter responded to the theater as follows: “I am the only contact window between the Presenter and the Theater. All of our members know about this and they are not allowed to contact you directly without my written approval.”

A few months earlier, in Ohio, staff at Cincinnati Theater received several rounds of emails similar (possibly identical, though this has not been tested as the theater did not provide copies) to the ones in received in Denver (see above).

Local presenter Dr. Sunny Lu reported the incident to the FBI, who told her the emails originated in China.

Aug 27 2012

Chinese Dancers Not Allowed to Compete in Hong Kong

Starting in 2007, the NY-based New Tang Dynasty Television has been holding the International Classical Chinese Dance Competition on a mostly annual basis. Shen Yun dancers figure prominently in these competitions and often win top prizes. Some contestants from China have been able to participate, but more often they have been blocked and even arrested.

This year, for the first time, NTD held a preliminary round in Hong Kong. Twenty-six contestants from mainland China were blocked by Beijing. They were either harassed and intimidated in China, or blocked at the border with the semi-autonomous city.

During the competition, a pro-Chinese Communist Party crowd surrounded the venue, shouting slogans and displaying banners. Witnesses described the scene as “totally crazy.”

The Chinese Communist Party has not publicly explained why it is sabotaging a traditional Chinese dance competition. It might have to do with a combination of Shen Yun’s dominance at these competitions and a fear performers will try to defect to the U.S. to join the N.Y.-based company.

For more, see:

NTD Press Release

The Epoch Times: “A Dance Competition Threatens a Regime”

Dancers Banned from Celebrating China’s Heritage

Apr 20 2012

Seattle’s King5 TV Reports

“The Chinese government has asked Seattle’s elected leaders to skip an upcoming performance by a New York-based Chinese-American dance troupe,” reports Seattle’s King5 News.

The request was made in a letter from the Chinese Consulate in San Francisco to Seattle City Council Members. According to <a href=”http://www.king5.com/news/cities/seattle/Shen-Yun-138365814.html”>King5 News</a>, the letter wrote that Shen Yun is, “an evil cult that preaches heretical fallacies and exercises extreme mental manipulation… and has for years engaged in anti-China activities in the United States.”

A copy of letter has been obtained and is available upon request.

Feb 15 2012

London Coliseum Not Intimidated

Local presenter representative and University of Reading professor Li Shao reported that the Chinese Embassy in London dispatched staff to visit the London Coliseum, where Shen Yun was scheduled to perform, in attempt to convince the theater to renege on the contract. Local presenters also said the Embassy had visited the London Coliseum the previous year as well, both before and after the Shen Yun performances, asking the theater to stop renting the venue to Shen Yun. The Coliseum rented the venue anyway and held the performances.

“I know the Chinese Communist Party tried to stop Shen Yun from performing in Romania last year,” said Member of European Parliament Gerard Batten. “It’s an absolute disgrace that they are trying to use strong arm tactics here in the UK.”

Shen Yun “is about presenting this moral point of view in a very elegant way,” said London-based China author Ethan Gutmann, “with beautiful costumes and sculpted dances and bringing people through Chinese history in a fun way. The Chinese government envies that, they want that – they’ve been looking for soft power for a long time.”


The Epoch Times: Beijing’s Battle for Soft Power Playing Out in the West End