New York-based Shen Yun Performing Arts staged four successful shows in Brussels, the Belgium capital, from March 11 to March 13, 2013. Brussels, known as the capital of Europe, is home to the European Union, the European Parliament, NATO and other international organizations.
With its inspiring productions of original dance, music and dazzling stage design, Shen Yun is becoming increasingly popular worldwide. However, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has once again tried to import its special brand of censorship by using threats and intimidation in yet another unsuccessful attempt to stop ticket sales in a free, democratic country.
On the afternoon of February 27, when a theater patron went to the Brussels National Theatre to buy tickets for the Shen Yun show, she was told that the theater box office could no longer sell Shen Yun tickets and that tickets could only be purchased on the Internet. Surprised, the patron contacted the sponsoring organization for Shen Yun Performing Arts in Belgium, the Belgian Falun Dafa Association.
Mr. Shi, the director of the Belgian Falun Dafa Association, shared the whole story, “After learning that the theater stopped selling Shen Yun tickets, the Belgian Falun Dafa Association immediately contacted the manager of the theater and asked for an explanation. I was informed that the Wallonia-Brussels Theatre (WBT), a government agency which oversees the management of the Brussels National Theatre, had questioned the National Theatre regarding the Shen Yun shows. During the time that the manager of the National Theatre responded to WBT’s inquiry, the sale of Shen Yun tickets was temporarily halted.”
After three hours of communication between the organizing party and the theater, the National Theatre ticket office once again returned to normal operation. This unexpected episode exposed the CCP's most recent attempts to interfere with Shen Yun.
A staff member at the National Theatre told the Shen Yun organizer that the Chinese Embassy in Belgium had put pressure on WBT, the agency responsible for the theater’s budget. When the WBT questioned the theater regarding the Shen Yun show, the National Theatre stated their intent to adhere to their contract with Shen Yun Performing Arts: “We have a contract. Belgium is a free society. The theater respects the right to freedom of expression.” Subsequently, ticket sales resumed.
A History of Interference
The CCP's attempt to interfere with Shen Yun performances is not a new occurrence in Brussels. Two years ago, when Shen Yun Performing Arts was scheduled to perform at the same theater, Chinese embassy staff tried to have the show canceled. Mr. Shi recounted, "Chinese embassy staff contacted the theater manager directly and asked him to cancel the performance. The manager immediately rejected such an unreasonable request."
This time, the embassy staff knew that it was impossible to interfere with the theater directly, so they attempted to exert pressure on the theater’s higher management to cancel the shows in Belgium. However, they were once again unsuccessful.
As Shen Yun Performing Arts’ annual world tour becomes increasingly popular, the CCP tries to interfere with Shen Yun shows around the world. Incidences of threats and attempted sabotage have occurred no matter where Shen Yun goes, be it Asia, North America or Europe. Last year, the CCP tried to pressure the London Coliseum to break their contract with Shen Yun. Not long ago, on the eve of the Shen Yun performance in Fort Worth, Texas, the local Chinese embassy hired thugs to damage the fuel tank of the Shen Yun bus, attempting to cause a deadly accident.
Around the world, the CCP's threats and underhanded tactics are in stark contrast to the warm welcome Shen Yun receives in every city the company visits. The day before Shen Yun Performing Arts arrived in Europe, on the evening of February 26, Mr. Edward McMillan-Scott, Vice-President of the European Parliament, held a reception to welcome Shen Yun’s launch of the 2013 European tour.
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