We all know that Voltaire said: “I may not agree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” I would add: “Mind you, when it’s a paranoid communist dictatorship grappling with a bunch of tedious and creepy mystical wackos, I tend to just sit back and watch the fun.”
On the face of it, what we have here is an outrageous infringement of Hong Kong’s supposed autonomy in immigration affairs. The US-based Shen Yun Performing Arts company is cancelling seven ‘traditional Chinese dance and music’ shows here because the Big Lychee won’t give certain members visas. According to the artistes, officials said that personnel with those particular members’ technical skills are already available in Hong Kong. This would fool no-one; artistic groups bring their own lighting, sound and other crew all the time.
The troupe is linked with the anti-Communist Party, quasi-Buddhist, qigong-style cult, Falun Gong. Although local FLG adherents are free to practice their weird breathing and other exercises, their overseas brethren are routinely turned away at Hong Kong’s borders. This is, although no-one admits it, on the express orders of Beijing. Led by the vaguely sinister Master Li Hongzhi in New York, FLG is the nearest thing China has to an opposition, having pulled such stunts in the past as hijacking mainland satellite TV broadcasts. After the group suddenly revealed its organizational capacity in protests in the late 1990s, members were ruthlessly persecuted, and the movement now presents two faces: one of menace, to Beijing, and one of innocent victimhood to the rest of the world.
It claims millions of members in over 100 countries, and certainly has impressive resources, including newspapers like Epoch Times, a TV channel and websites in every language on such intriguing matters as Fa Rectification Cultivation (followers’ righteous thoughts) and Truth Clarification to Save Sentient Beings (press releases, basically). Its members also mount various forms of street theatre and silent protest about FLG members’ treatment in China; in photogenic spots in Hong Kong, Macau, Malaysia and elsewhere (though Singapore bans them) they pester horrified mainland tourists by handing out gory leaflets showing practitioners’ mutilated corpses. Chinese diplomats overseas maintain running battles with the movement, even assaulting them at gatherings – and urging foreigners to avoid the evil cult and its performing arts groups.
Shen Yun (formerly Divine) Performing Arts blends anti-CCP and pro-FLG propaganda into its works, and not very subtly, by some accounts. It would have known all along that it would not be allowed to enter Hong Kong. Although China promised Hong Kong autonomy in immigration affairs, only a naïf would imagine that Beijing would keep its word where FLG is concerned. To the central people’s government, it is a national security matter; allowing Hong Kong to admit FLG is as thinkable as Washington DC letting Puerto Rico invite Osama Bin Laden to visit. So the returning of cash to ticket-holders and laments about the shows’ cancellation are part of the script.
The FLG and CCP have more in common than either would think. They are both prone to irrational, mouth-frothing diatribes. Both rely on the use of impenetrable code to avoid facts or admission of a lack of them. Both claim a morally pure lineage and ideology but are run by people at the top who (I would wager) are stuffing their pockets at the expense of the little people. One difference: the Hong Kong Immigration Department can’t turn the CCP away.