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Chinese Embassy Pressured Theater to Cancel Shen Yun Performances in Spain, Investigation Reveals

2019-01-29 23:31
A top-level official from the Chinese Embassy in Spain admitted in a recent phone call that he made a personal visit to the general manager of the Royal Theater in Madrid to pressure him into canceling performances of a popular traditional Chinese dance and music company slated to run there, according to a recent investigation. The New York-based Shen Yun Performing Arts—whose mission is to revive 5,000 years of Chinese civilization through music and dance, according to its website—had booked the Royal Theater in Madrid to perform on Jan. 31 and Feb. 2. Shen Yun performances include pieces that portray contemporary China, including the ongoing persecution of the banned spiritual practice Falun Gong—a topic considered taboo by the Chinese regime. Just weeks before the scheduled performances, the theater canceled the shows due to “technical difficulties.” The Royal Theater confirmed this reasoning in an emailed statement to The Epoch Times. The U.S. branch of the World Organization to Investigate the Persecution of Falun Gong (WOIPFG), a non-profit organization that investigates human-rights abuses perpetrated against Falun Gong adherents, said it decided to conduct an investigation into the cancellation after seeing media reports about possible Chinese embassy interference to pressure the theater into canceling the show. As part of its undercover investigation, on Jan. 22, WOIPFG made a phone call to the Chinese embassy, posing as a high-level Chinese government official. The person who took the call identified himself as the Chinese Ambassador to Spain, Lü Fan, according to a press release issued by WOIPFG. The organization released an audio recording of the phone call on its website on Jan. 28. “The investigation confirmed that the cancellation of the theater’s contract with the Shen Yun organizers was entirely the result of the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) interferences,” WOIPFG said in its statement. “Lü Fan personally put pressure on the theater to cancel the contract with Shen Yun Performing Arts. By using the CCP’s control of the large Chinese market as an enticement, Lü Fan and the theater’s director jointly planned to cancel the Shen Yun performances under the pretext of technical difficulties.” During the call, Lü explained how he convinced the Royal Theater’s general manager to cancel Shen Yun by warning the general manager that the theater “can’t afford to lose the Chinese market because of this.” Lü added that the theater’s general manager, whose name was not identified in the call, was initially reluctant to carry out the embassy’s request, as he was concerned that it would “result in a loss of revenue” and was afraid the theater’s reputation would be affected. At the time when Shen Yun was canceled, nearly 900 tickets were sold online and the theater had already made a number of preparations for the performances, according to Lü’s account. But after a meeting with himself, the general manager eventually relented to the embassy’s request. “I told him not to think only about the economic income but also politics. When you work with China by signing the ‘International League of Theaters of the Silk Road,’ you have a great potential in the Chinese market,” Lü said, referring to an agreement the Madrid theater had signed with the Chinese regime in 2016. The “International League of Theaters of the Silk Road” agreement is a project to promote “artistic exchange in the field of performing arts,” according to a report by the state-run China Daily newspaper. The league is in turn part of China’s flagship project for increasing geopolitical influence around the world, the One Belt, One Road initiative. Lü also stated in the call that he worked closely with the general manager to come up with a reason to cancel the show—which was subsequently used by the theater. “We told them to use technical reasons [as their cover], to say that since the show was booked in a hurry, they didn’t think through about the technical issues,” Lü said in the call, specifically instructing the general manager to inform Shen