Malaysia cancels dance show at China’s request over Falun Gong

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia: The Malaysian government, under pressure from China, canceled a dance performance containing acts alluding to the Falun Gong spiritual movement, an official and the U.S.-based organizer said Monday.

About 20 people who had bought tickets for the weekend show protested Monday outside the Ministry of Culture, Arts and Heritage, which issued the order to cancel the Divine Performing Arts troupe performance.

The ministry revoked the show’s permit because the Chinese Embassy complained that the organizers — U.S.-based New Tang Dynasty Television station — were supporters of Falun Gong, a spiritual movement that Beijing bans as a dangerous cult, said a ministry official.

“The show is nothing, but we’re scared of the influence behind it,” said the official, who declined to be named because she is not authorized to speak to the media. “We have to take care of our relationship with China. It’s very important.”

Wong Mei Yee, project manager with NTDTV, blasted Malaysia’s decision. She acknowledged that parts of the performance hinted at the persecution of Falun Gong practitioners “in an artistic way” but said that should not matter.

“Whether it’s related to Falun Gong or not, it’s legal,” Wong said of the dance performance. “They don’t have the right to interfere like this.”

Chinese authorities have denounced NTDTV, which is based in New York and broadcasts by satellite in Mandarin, Cantonese and English, as a mouthpiece for Falun Gong. Many of the station’s staffers are Falun Gong practitioners, but NTDTV insists it is independent.

Falun Gong itself is not banned in Malaysia and there are some local practitioners.

The March 22-23 show titled “Chinese Spectacular” was to have been performed by an international cast from Australia, Canada, China, Germany, the U.S. and other countries. The show features different ethnic dances and stories from China’s dynasties.

A Chinese Embassy official declined to comment.

Wong said 2,000 tickets had been sold for the two performances. The cancellation cost organizers an estimated 100,000 ringgit (US$31,800; ‚¬20,600).

NTDTV is refunding the tickets, but people from Australia, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan and Singapore, who had already booked their flights, had still traveled to Kuala Lumpur, Wong said.

“I’m disappointed. (Malaysia) is a democratic country,” said Lawrence Koh, 62, from Australia, who had bought 20 tickets for him and his Malaysian relatives. “This is a disgrace that Malaysia should bow to the pressure of China like that.”

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Religion News Blog posted this on Monday March 24, 2008.
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