Suspicion surrounds forced cancellation of Shen Yun’s Hong Kong shows

Last week, the world’s premiere Chinese classical music and dance company, Shen Yun Performing Arts, returned to Washington, DC and performed for over 33,000 Washingtonians in seven sold-out shows at The Kennedy Center. This week, Shen Yun remains in DC, but not to perform.

On January 27, Shen Yun was scheduled to make their first and highly-anticipated appearance in Hong Kong. However, their performances were abruptly cancelled due to the surprise, last-minute visa denials of seven key crew members.

The Hong Kong shows were particularly important because the expression of traditional Chinese music and dance is currently not permitted in mainland China. Shen Yun, along with members of the Chinese-American community, viewed the Hong Kong performances as an important first step in bringing such art forms back to China.

A January 21 letter from Hong Kong’s Immigration Department explained that the visas were denied because the crew members’ positions could be “filled locally” by Hong Kong workers. Shen Yun Performing Arts is skeptical of this reasoning and believes that other, more alarming reasons are in play, particularly influences of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and the gradual suppression of freedoms in Hong Kong, an island that typically enjoys more freedoms than mainland China under the principle of “one country, two systems.”

The news of Shen Yun’s cancelled performances comes on the heels of recent, widespread protests in Hong Kong, where demonstrators expressed disapproval of Hong Kong’s unelected legislators and called for pro-democratic reforms.

Speaking yesterday at two emergency conferences, one for the media at The National Press Club, the other for congressional staffers at the Cannon House Office Building on Capitol Hill, Shen Yun’s crew and performers discussed their disappointment, suspicions regarding the Hong Kong visa denials, and the importance of defending freedom of expression in Hong Kong.

Gregory Xu, production manager, explained, “[Shen Yun] has been to many other countries and no other has raised this issue.” He went on to note that those who were denied visas are integral to the performance because they possess special skills that cannot be acquired over a short period of time. He called Hong Kong’s decision “illogical,” and said that Shen Yun provided Hong Kong officials with all the information they requested throughout the visa application process.

Leeshai Lemish, spokesman for Shen Yun, said that over 7,700 ticketed audience members have been directly affected by the show’s cancellation with a price tag of up to $200,000. Mr. Lemish also explained why tickets were sold in Hong Kong without first securing every visa. “[Shen Yun] views Hong Kong just as other democratic countries. The whole process was done in good faith and there was no indication of any potential problems.”

Lead dancer, Leon Chao, a DC native, expressed his feelings about the cancelled shows. “My personal dream is to one day perform in China. Hong Kong was a very important first step and now it is lost. As an American, I ask Americans to take a stand and not take our freedoms for granted.”

Vina Lee, Shen Yun’s company manager, explained that most of the performers were shocked by the news, “especially the young dancers who grew up in the West.” Ms. Lee said that Shen Yun will still try to go to Hong Kong as well as mainland China. “We want to bring Chinese culture – truth, compassion and beauty – back to China.”

Shen Yun Performing Arts is an NYC-based, nonprofit organization dedicated to reviving Chinese traditions that have been prohibited since the CCP came into power. Their mission is to “revive Chinese traditions that thrived before decades of suppression.” The show depicts traditional Chinese stories and legends as well as events in modern-day China, such as the persecution of the Falun Dafa, a spiritual practice that is prohibited in mainland China, along with other religious groups.

Shen Yun’s cast members are of Chinese descent but live outside of mainland China, which allows them to perform without fear of censorship.

Hong Kong Authorities Deny Visas To US-based Shen Yun Performing Arts, Force Cancellation Of Sold-Out Shows

WASHINGTON, Jan. 26 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — The following is being issued by Shen Yun Performing Arts:

WHAT: Press Conference hosted by Shen Yun Performing Arts and New Tang Dynasty Network,

local presenter of Shen Yun performances, with the latest completed on January 24 at the Kennedy Center Opera House

WHEN: 10 a.m. Wednesday, January 27, 2010

WHERE: Bloomberg Room, National Press Club

529 14th St. NW, 13th Floor, Washington, DC 20045

WHO: Vina Lee, Company Manager and Choreographer

Brian Nieh, Lead Dancer and DC resident

Leon Chao, Lead Dancer and DC resident

Hoiwa Lee, Dancer and Hong Kong Resident

Gregory Xu, Stage Manager, whose visa was denied

Leeshai Lemish, Master of Ceremony

Terri Wu, NTDN Director of Sales and Marketing

On January 27, the date of the first originally scheduled performance in Hong Kong, Shen Yun Performing Arts hosts a joint press conference with its local presenter in Washington, New Tang Dynasty Network, to ask the U.S. government and Washingtonians to protect Shen Yun’s rights as an American company, support artistic freedom, and defend freedom of expression in Hong Kong.

Over 7,700 ticketed audience members have been directly affected.

Three days before over 90 dancers, musicians, and technical crew were to board a plane for Hong Kong ahead of seven sold-out shows, Hong Kong authorities refused to issue visas to key production members, forcing the shows’ cancellation. The seven crew members are an integral part of Shen Yun Performing Arts and are highly trained in Shen Yun’s specific artistic requirements. They cannot be replaced and the show cannot go on without them.

Shen Yun artists and representatives of the local presenter New Tang Dynasty Network are available for interview.  B-rolls are also available.

About Shen Yun Performing Arts:

Based in New York, Shen Yun Performing Arts is a nonprofit organization that seeks to revive Chinese traditions that thrived before decades of suppression. At the production’s heart is classical Chinese dance, along with vocalists, a unique orchestra of Chinese and Western instruments, and colorful hand-made costumes. Shen Yun’s dances portray traditional legends, as well as events in present-day China, like the story of Falun Gong. By artistically depicting these stories on stage, Shen Yun aims to breathe new life into the values of China’s divinely inspired culture. Last week, Shen Yun performed seven shows at the Kennedy Center Opera House.

About New Tang Dynasty Network:

New Tang Dynasty Network (NTDN), a Chinese language TV channel, is proud of presenting Shen Yun performances to Washingtonians.  It has presented three Shen Yun appearances at the Kennedy Center Opera House in February 2009, August 2009 and January 2010; the last run was completed on Sunday, January 24, with sold-out performances over the weekend.  Some 33,000 Washingtonians have enjoyed Shen Yun performances.

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