A landmark court ruling on March 9 in Hong Kong has successfully overturned the Immigration Department’s decision to refuse entry of key members of the Shen Yun Performing Arts company last year.
The decision was an encouraging step toward ensuring cultural freedom and curbing the power of the Immigration Department, said Chairperson of Hong Kong Human Rights Monitor Chong Yiu Kwong.
“I’m happy about the court’s decision. … I feel that the court’s verdict is quite fair. It puts a limit on the discretionary power of the Immigration Department,” said Chong. “After the court’s verdict, Immigration can no longer be so reckless and unreasonably refuse others to enter Hong Kong.”
The legal case was filed by the Epoch Group—the local presenter of Shen Yun—against the director of Immigration, after he refused six members of the company entry to Hong Kong just seven days before the shows were due to commence in January 2010. The Epoch Group also publishes the Hong Kong edition of The Epoch Times.
The New York-based Shen Yun, referred to as the world’s premier classical Chinese dance company, was invited by the Epoch Group to perform seven shows at the Lyric Theatre Jan. 27–31, 2010.
Shen Yun believes the visa denial in Hong Kong was due to interference by the Chinese regime. In a Jan. 24, 2010, press release Shen Yun stated: “The Chinese communist regime has been seeking to interfere with our performances for years by trying to pressure officials and theaters to cancel our shows. We regret that the Hong Kong people are denied their right to see Shen Yun Performing Arts and understand that this incident constitutes a violation of Hong Kong people’s freedom. We hope the people of Hong Kong who treasure their freedom will urge the Hong Kong government to undo this mistake.”
Shen Yun master of ceremonies Leeshai Lemish also said that upon the cancellation of the show audience members who planned to travel to Hong Kong from mainland China had their tickets confiscated by authorities and some were even arrested.
The Hong Kong ruling, issued by Judge Andrew Cheung in the High Court of the Special Administrative Region, ordered that the director of Immigration’s decision be “quashed” on the grounds that he “failed to take into account relevant considerations.”
According to its website, Shen Yun’s mission is to revive traditional Chinese culture. It has been invited to perform at some of the world’s most prestigious venues, such as the Lincoln Center in New York, the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., and Palais des Congrès in Paris.
The organizers said that the performances were completely sold out within days of the public ticket release.
The sudden visa cancellation forced the organizers to refund over HK$5 million (US$642,000) to the public in lost ticket sales, said Mr. Kan.
“We were shocked by the director’s decision. The refusal to allow key production staff into Hong Kong just days before the shows was clearly a premeditated action to sabotage the show,” he said.
“We welcome the court’s decision, and we thank all the righteous support from Hong Kong and overseas, and praise the court for being able to clear the obstacles,” said Mr. Kan.
In Hong Kong there are no specific visa schedules for visiting artists or sports teams. Such groups have to apply under the so-called GEP schedule, known as General Employment Policy. The provision essentially requires the applicants to prove the necessity for “employment” and that their work cannot be performed by local experts.
While in most cases such proof is not enforced, the final decision has been left to the director of Immigration, whose powers remained largely unchallenged.
This latest court decision by Judge Andrew Cheung has created an opening for greater discretion, says To Yiu Ming, assistant professor, Department of Journalism, Hong Kong Baptist University.
“I feel that the court’s decision respected art exchanges [and] has a positive effect on cultural exchange in future,” said Mr. Ming.
“This is a testing case to see if the court is really independent,” he added.
One unique feature of the Shen Yun performances is the use of state-of-the-art technology to project digital backdrops, often synchronized with the dance performers.
The court documents from Judge Andrew Cheung cite evidence the six visa applications were denied to the staff that was specifically responsible for technical support and back stage assistance, in particular lighting, sound, and projector operations.
According to the summary of the minutes from the Immigration Department meeting provided as evidence, the director asserted, “The duties of applicant as audio engineer are of [a] general nature and the knowledge, experience, and skills required do not meet the requirement that they are not readily available in Hong Kong.”
In other words, the visa applications were refused on the grounds that the staff can be replaced by local engineers.
The reasons were refuted by the applicant’s lawyer, Mr. Paul Harris.
“The decision to refuse all production staff … ignores the simple fact that being able to operate the lighting [and] sound effects of backdrop for a stage event is not a matter of knowing how to operate them, but a matter of when to operate them,” argued Mr. Harris.
The Epoch Group plans to reinvite Shen Yun to Hong Kong as soon as possible, says Mr. Kan.
The government can appeal the court’s decision within four weeks, but some feel that will be unlikely.
“I can tell you, he may not dare to appeal after going through the verdict,” said Albert Ho, leader of the Democratic Party.
Mr. Ho believes the verdict re-established Hong Kong’s values.
“There is a bottom line, Hong Kong is still a place where rule of law is a deeply rooted tradition, that does not easily lose its function under political pressure,” he said. “This is also what’s valuable in Hong Kong.”
新西兰国会议员Keith Locke和奥克兰议会议员Cathy Casey接到诋毁神韵艺术团的信 件 后，十分愤怒，信上警告他们不要出席神韵的演出。
New Zealand Parliament Member Keith Locke and Auckland Council Member Cathy Casey are furious at Chinese letters they have received denigrating Shen Yun Performing Arts and warning them not to attend the company’s shows.
Ahead of Shen Yun’s February 3-5 performances in Auckland’s Aotea Center’s ASB Theatre, the capital’s City Council members received a letter from the consulate of the People’s Republic of China. The letter, dated December 31, 2010 and signed by Consular General Liao Juhua, concludes: “You are kindly requested to stay away from the event and thank you for reading this letter.”
While at least one City Councilor thought the letter was a joke, City Councilor Cathy Casey took exception to the letter and exposed it. She filed a formal complaint with the head of the consular corps in Auckland and also posted and subjected it to ridicule on her Facebook page.
“Nobody tells me to go or not go to a production at the Aotea Centre,” Casey said on New Zealand’s 3News. “China has its own rules. We are a democracy, we have freedom of speech, freedom of association. This breaks every rule.”
According to 3News, all 20 council members received the Consul General’s letter. Casey wants an apology. “This is breach of the partnership between council and the diplomatic corps,” she told The Epoch Times.
On January 24, Parliament Member Keith Locke of New Zealand’s Green Party received a different letter. The letter had a similar message, but was signed by 29-Auckland based Chinese organizations asking him not to attend the performance. In a press release posted on the Green Party website, Locke said he is “concerned that some Chinese organisations in Auckland may be acting in league with the Auckland consulate in this matter.”
In an interview with NTDTV, MP Locke objected to this type of foreign pressure. “It’s the sort of censorship that goes on in China, but it’s not the sort of censorship we should have here in New Zealand.”
The letter is on file and available upon request.
Note: On February 17, a “Spring Fantasy” gala, a performance supported by the Auckland Chinese consulate that also featured a speech by State Council Overseas Chinese Affairs Office Vice Director Xu Yousheng, was held at the same ASB Theatre.
As Shen Yun Performing Arts launched its 2011 tour of Asia, the company received advertising provided gratis by Chinese diplomats. First, the P.R.C mission to South Korea pressured a theater in Busan to cancel Shen Yun’s performances. Then, such a media frenzy ensued that hours after the District Court ruled that the show must go on, Shen Yun played to a sold-out house.
On January 19, Shen Yun’s International Company, one of three Shen Yun troupes simultaneously touring around the world, was scheduled to hold its 2011 Asia debut at the Busan City Cultural Center. As in previous years, the performance was to be hosted by the South Korean Falun Dafa Association.
The Association signed a valid rental contract with the Cultural Center on November 12, 2010. But on December 21, the theater sent the hosting organization a notice saying it was canceling the performance, in effect reneging on the contract. Negotiations between the two parties came to a standstill. Then, on January 16, three days before the performance, the hosting organization held a press conference, not in front of the theater, but in front of the Busan Chinese Consulate.
At the press event, the Falun Dafa Association of South Korea stated that Busan Consul General Hua Bing, Vice Consul General Jin Yanguang, as well as Seoul Embassy Cultural Affairs Officer Wang Chuan, Political Affairs Officer Chen Hai, and other consular representatives had threatened Busan City Hall and the Busan Cultural Association that allowing the Shen Yun performances would damage South Korea’s relationship with China. The Association said that the consulate had also phoned television stations and told them the performances were cancelled, instructing them to stop playing Shen Yun advertisements.
Consular officials had also contacted theaters and local government offices in Shen Yun’s next South Korean destination cities of Goyang (Aram Nuri theater) and Daegu (Suseong Artpia theater). Consular representatives asked them to cancel the rental contracts, but in both cities, the requests were spurned as local officials explained that the city has no right to annul a private contract.
This marked the fifth time since 2007 that P.R.C diplomats in Korea have sought to interfere with Shen Yun performances there. On two previous occasions, the shows indeed ended up being cancelled (see details below). But that was not to be the case this time.
On January 18, 2011, the hosting organization submitted a petition to the Busan District Court’s Second Administrative Department. The following morning, as the court was reviewing the case, Shen Yun’s artists and technical crew arrived at the Busan theater ready to set up that night’s performance. As happened in Moldova last spring, the crew was not allowed into the theater and was forced to wait outside locked doors. Around noon, the District Court’s ruling reached the theater, with the verdict that Shen Yun be allowed to perform. After a breakneck setup completed in less than half the usual time, Shen Yun performed to a full house.
Shen Yun’s three performances in Busan were sold out, and the rest of its performances in other Korean cities were full as well. Ticket sales, which were initially slow, were suddenly boosted by Korean press coverage of P.R.C diplomats trying to tell Koreans what they can and cannot watch. The fiasco led not only to outrage, but also curiosity about Shen Yun. It turns out that P.R.C officials provided Shen Yun with free, wide-scale promotion.
On the second day of performances in Busan, audience members included Chinese who made the special trip over to watch the show. One man interviewed by The Epoch Times, surname Zou, stayed to watch two performances. He said he had been a longtime fan of Shen Yun tenor Guan Guimin. “I got to hear Mr. Guan’s voice again. It was so beautiful. I used to listen to his songs when I was in China. I can’t believe that after so many years I get to hear him sing again. I’m so lucky!” Mr. Zou left the theater with multiple copies of the program to give to his family and friends back home.
Previous documented incidents in Korea:
February 2009: Shen Yun was scheduled to perform at Universal Art Center, which is run by a religious foundation. But the Chinese Embassy in Seoul threatened the theater that if the show is not canceled, they will not issue visas for members of the Korean foundation who conduct business in China. The embassy also threatened that the foundation will risk economic loss of hundreds of millions of dollars that they invested in China if they allow the Shen Yun’s show to take place. The show was canceled, but the case was brought to court, the cancellation was overturned and the show successfully performed.
February 2008: Shen Yun shows, hosted by the Korean Epoch Times, and scheduled to be performed at Kyung Hee University’s Grand Peace Palace, are canceled. The reason given was an overlapping schedule with other university activities. But pressure from the Chinese Embassy in Seoul was evident and the case was brought to court. The hosting organization won the case and the show was performed.
February 2008: Shen Yun shows scheduled at the KBS Busan Hall (owned by the state-run KBS TV) to be hosted by the Sonata Planning Agent for Performing Arts were cancelled due to fear of diplomatic frictions with the Chinese regime. The case was brought to court, with the decision upholding the legitimacy of the show’s cancellation.
April 2007: The Keox Auditorium Hall, which belongs to the Korean government organization Trade Center, was scheduled to hold Shen Yun’s show, hosted by New Tang Dynasty Television. On March 16, NTDTV was notified of the show’s cancellation. The case was brought to court under the allegation that the show was canceled due to Chinese embassy pressure. NTDTV won the case, but the theater refused to open the doors for the show, and it ended up being canceled.
In its 2010 annual report on religious freedom, the U.S. Department of State cited multiple cases of cancellation of Shen Yun Performing Arts shows due to pressure from Chinese authorities. The cancellation of performances took place last year in the Eastern European countries of Moldova, Romania, and Ukraine and were ultimately carried out by local authorities. The source of the pressure, however, is traced back to representatives of the Chinese Communist Party’s regime, as cited in the report and throughout this website (see evidence chart).
The DOS report further detailed the cancellation of seven sold-out Shen Yun performances in Hong Kong, due to Hong Kong authorities refusal to grant visas to Shen Yun crew.
The report also cited the arrest of Jiang Feng, the husband of Shen Yun erhu virtuoso Mei Xuan.
Below are the relevant excerpts from the DOS report.
“The government cancelled two performances by Shen Yun Performing Arts, an organization that artistically presents Chinese culture through music and dance and speaks about the Chinese government’s mistreatment of Falun Gong. The Chinese government banned the Falun Gong in 1999 and has been reportedly pressuring governments in Europe, North America, and Asia to cancel Shen Yun performances. At a press conference held on May 27, 2010, Deputy Minister of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and European Integration Andrei Popov voiced concern over the political nature of the show, and claimed that it might hurt diplomatic relations with China. The theater cancelled both scheduled performances on May 25 and 26, reportedly succumbing to pressure from the Ministry of Culture and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and European Integration, despite a contract signed with the Falun Dafa Association on January 20, 2010.”
“In January 2010 government intervention prevented Shen Yun Performing Arts from performing at a theater in Bucharest. Shen Yun Performing Arts is an organization that artistically presented Chinese culture through music and dance and references the Chinese government’s mistreatment of Falun Gong. The Chinese government-banned Falun Gong in 1999 and has been reportedly pressuring governments in Europe, North America, and Asia to cancel Shen Yun performances. Several Romanian members of the European Parliament unsuccessfully tried to reverse the government’s decision. Falun Dafa Romania, which sponsored the shows, alleged that the Chinese Embassy pressured the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) to forbid the performance. The MFA said the cancellation was due to a contract issue.”
“The government cancelled a performance by Shen Yun Performing Arts, an organization that artistically presents Chinese culture through music and dance and speaks about the Chinese government’s mistreatment of Falun Gong. The Chinese government banned the Falun Gong in 1999 and has been reportedly pressuring governments in Europe, North America, and Asia to cancel Shen Yun performances. The show was scheduled to take place in Odesa on May 28, 2010, but was cancelled, allegedly following pressure from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Odesa’s local government.”
“The Epoch Group, a media organization with ties to Falun Gong, rented premises and sold out a several-day run of performances of the Shen Yun Performing Arts Show in January 2010. The show presents Chinese culture through music and dance and references the mainland government’s treatment of the Falun Gong. The HKSAR denied visas to six technicians of the Shen Yun troupe. The Immigration Department stated that the visas were refused in accordance with laws protecting the employment of local workers, and that the troupe could hire competent staff locally. Epoch Group contended that local staff could not replace the specialized expertise of its staff. The government sustained its refusals, and the Epoch Group cancelled the show. Epoch Group is seeking judicial review of the refusals.”
“In February 2010 Jiang Feng, the husband of a musician in Shen Yun, a Falun Gong-related performing arts show, was reported missing in the country. His family members have received no information on any arrest, charges, or sentence.”
And in general, as part of a larger pattern:
“The Falun Gong also reported several incidents of the government’s interference with their activities abroad. According to NGO reports, the Shen Yun Performing Arts Company, and several media outlets, government officials pressured venues and governments in Asia and Europe to limit the broadcast time of Falun Gong-associated radio stations and cancel or otherwise delay Shen Yun performances. The performances artistically present Chinese culture through music and dance and reference the Government’s treatment of Falun Gong.”
下面是美国国务院报道的有关摘录： Read the rest of this entry »
The evidence chart has been translated into Chinese, and is available here.
For a word.doc copy of this chart, please email a request via the contact form.
Reunion denied by China’s ongoing religious persecution
By Mei Xuan
Have you ever waited at an airport for a loved one you have not seen in a long time? Surely you remember the giddy expectation, scanning arriving passengers for that familiar face. But what if your loved one never arrived?
My husband never turned up. On Feb. 18, I waited for him at Newark International Airport with flowers. It had been over three years since I last saw him before fleeing China. Jiang Feng was to arrive on a Continental Airlines flight from Shanghai, but after the last passengers left he was still nowhere to be seen. My calls to China confirmed my greatest fears: He checked in, but never boarded the flight. Chinese secret police abducted him.
We married 12 years ago in Anhui province. I was a musician and he worked as a piano tuner. But before our first anniversary we were kidnapped from our workplaces and jailed. That was July 20, 1999, the first round of arrests of Falun Gong practitioners like us.
Our worlds collapsed as the campaign rolled in with a force equal to that of Mao Zedong’s Cultural Revolution. Suddenly, we were enemies of the state, cut off from our family and friends. We were arrested for practicing meditation and following our discipline – principles of truthfulness, compassion and tolerance. Falun Gong was becoming too popular for the Communist Party’s liking and our crime was having an independent belief system.
As I was a prominent musician, my director pulled strings to get me out, but my husband was jailed for three years. In 2002, literally days before his release, I was standing on a sidewalk when plainclothes police suddenly shoved me into a taxi and drove me to a detention center. They imprisoned me for four years. I was tied to a chair for 75 days without being allowed to sleep or use the restroom. My fingers and feet swelled three times their size. I was electrocuted, beaten and repeatedly knocked unconscious. I watched my friends, one after another, take their last breaths. Somehow, I survived and, after being released in 2006, fled to the United States.
My husband and I planned to reunite here. After I was generously granted political asylum, he also received the status of “derivative asylee,” obtained a U.S. visa, packed his bags and checked in at the Shanghai Pudong International Airport.
He would have been with me in Washington this week, as thousands of Falun Gong practitioners from around the world mark yet another anniversary of persecution in China. Instead, he is in an Anhui province labor camp in which prisoners toil in a coal mine. In addition to torture, my husband now faces the dangers of being trapped, suffocated or crushed underground in China’s most fatality-prone work.
Many people think the persecution of Falun Gong is mostly a thing of the past, a blotch on China’s slow but steady progress. Quite the contrary. In the months before the Olympics, over 8,000 practitioners were arrested, often from their homes for no apparent reason other than their faith. Many were sent to labor camps for periods far exceeding the length of the Olympic Games. Last year saw an upsurge in sham trials with hundreds of Falun Gong practitioners sentenced to prison for up to 18 years, often simply for downloading an article or distributing leaflets exposing persecution.
My husband and I were wed 12 years ago but, separated by persecution, we have shared married life for only a few months. I am extremely worried about his safety as I know what he faces every minute.
As you notice the Falun Gong activities this week, please remember that these victims of oppression are real people. They are our husbands and parents and children. They need your international voices of support. We have seen how, when the world looks away, we face the darkest pitilessness of the Chinese Communist Party. Your direct, public statements of support have a great restraining effect.