My name is Leeshai Lemish. I have been an MC with Shen Yun Performing Arts since its inception in late 2006. While traveling around the world with the company, I started noticing something strange following us.
When we arrived at a new city like Prague, Seoul, or Little Rock, we found that someone else had been there first. Long before I knew our tour schedule, a representative of the PRC embassy or consulate already threatened the local theater managers not to allow us to perform, and warned local officials that supporting our show would harm their business relations with China.
I immediately recognized this phenomenon from years of activism about the persecution of Falun Gong in China. For over a decade, PRC “diplomats” have been engaging in covert operations across North America, Europe, Australia and, really, wherever they are found, to try to sabotage any activity that exposes persecution in China. In 2002, I testified at a Congressional briefing in Washington about PRC clandestine operations in the West, which eventually lead to House Resolution 304.
Documented cases of such covert action include not only hounding elected officials, but also infiltrating media entities, twisting scholars into self-censorship, phone tapping, monitoring electronic communications, and even break-ins, beatings, death threats, tire slashing, and setting a vehicle on fire, to name just a few examples of incidents in the U.S.
This website is an attempt to systematically document these activities and incidents, starting with the interference with Shen Yun Performing Arts and freedom of artistic expression.
I hope to expand this website to include incidents against other groups and individuals. If you have information about other cases, I would very much like to hear from you.
Why is this happening?
It sounds strange, doesn’t it, that representatives of the Chinese government would want to stop a performance of traditional Chinese culture. Shouldn’t they be happy that a U.S.-based performing arts company is promoting Chinese culture around the world? Well, they’re not, and for two main reasons.
While an entire book could, and maybe someday will, be written about this phenomenon, here’s the gist of it:
- Shen Yun is about reviving traditional Chinese culture, a culture the Chinese Communist Party has for decades tried to destroy. Since coming to power in the middle of the last century and, especially during the Cultural Revolution, the Party has systematically tried to remove the traditional culture of China, fostered over the course of 5,000 years, and replace it with its own, Soviet-imported culture, what my Chinese friends call “Party culture.” Shen Yun’s mission is to revive the traditional culture and celebrate this ancient civilization. The Party sees Shen Yun as a threat to its cultural monopoly and a challenge to its narrative of what Chinese culture is and what China was like for thousands of years before the Communist Party. It fears losing legitimacy if China’s traditional culture — with its cherished virtues such as integrity, tolerance, loyalty, and benevolence — makes a comeback.
- Shen Yun was founded by Chinese artists from around the world, including China, who are also Falun Gong practitioners. As part of a Shen Yun performance’s journey through Chinese history, these artists also depict on stage the brutal persecution of Falun Gong and practitioners’ courageous, nonviolent resistance. This is a 17-year persecution campaign that the Chinese Communist Party claims isn’t even taking place, and yet Shen Yun presents it, through beautiful dance and music, on the world’s most prestigious stages in front of VIPs from the worlds of entertainment, government, media, and business. As part of the attempt to cover up this persecution, whose very death toll is still unknown but by some accounts is well into the hundreds of thousands, the Chinese Communist Party would also like to cover up Shen Yun.
I have BA in Chinese History and Chinese from Pomona College, and an MSc in International Relations from the London School of Economics and Political Science. In previous incarnations I have been a baseball player, intelligence sergeant, and investigative journalist. I have spent extensive periods studying, working and conducting research in East Asia, most recently with author Ethan Gutmann for his book about the persecution of Falun Gong. My family lives in New York.