The Consul General of the People’s Republic of China in San Francisco has written an official letter addressed to members of the city council of Seattle, Washington, dismissing a performance of a dance group and asking him not to attend, nor to congratulate the group.
New York-based Shen Yun Performing Arts uses music, song and dance to present thousands of years of Chinese history. It’s stated mission is to revive 5,000 years of divinely inspired Chinese culture, which the group’s website says “has been all but completely demolished” after 60 years of Communist rule.
Formerly known as Divine Performing Arts, the troupe’s current name translates as ‘The beauty of divine beings dancing.’
To the Chinese rules, however, the group represents an ‘evil cult.’
Shen Yun is associated with Falun Gong, a spiritual discipline formally known as Falun Dafa (Great Law of the Dharma Wheel. Falun Gong means Dharma Wheel Practice). The group’s performances are organised by local Falun Dafa Associations.
Chinese martial arts master Li Hongzhi founded Falun Gong in 1992. It combines the practice of meditation and qigong exercises with a moral philosophy.
The Dharma Wheel “is described by Mr. Li as a miniature of the cosmos that he says he installs telekinetically in the abdomens of all his followers, where it rotates in alternating directions, throwing off bad karma and gathering qi. Many Falun Gong adherents say they can feel the wheel turning in their bellies.”
Billed as an exercise practice, Falun Gong is in essence a quasi-religious movement that engages in occult practices. The movement denies being a religion, but does claim that it is subjected to religious intolerance and religious persecution.
While Falun Dafa initially enjoyed official support in China, the popularity and growing size of the movement eventually became a cause of concern for the Chinese government. By 1999 Beijing tallied 70 million Falun Gong adherents, exceeding the total membership of the Chinese Communist Party.
By the late 1990s the group’s followers regularly held sit-in demonstrations responding to media articles they deemed to be unfair. In April 1999 more than 10,000 Falun Gong practitioners sat down around the Chinese Communist Party headquarters in Beijing for an entire day, demanding the right to practise their meditation and breathing exercises. It was the largest demonstration in the capital since 1989, when democracy protestors were massacred on Tiananmen Square.
In July that year thousands of followers were rounded up, and on on July 22, the PRC Ministry of Civil Affairs outlawed the Falun Dafa Research Society as an illegal organization “engaged in illegal activities, advocating superstition and spreading fallacies, hoodwinking people, inciting and creating disturbances, and jeopardizing social stability.”
On the same day the Ministry of Public Security declared it a crime to practice Falun Gong in groups, to possess Falun Gong’s teachings, to display Falun Gong banners or symbols, or to protest the ban.
In a media campaign the Communist government accused the movement of causing 1,500 deaths.
To-date, persecution of Falun Gong followers in China is on-going. The movement says that many of its followers have been tortured and maimed or even killed in Chinese re-education camps.
Some of the members of Shen Yun are ethnic Chinese living in exile due to their affiliation with Falun Gong.
Outside of China consuls like Gao Zhansheng continue the Communist Party’s relentless campaign against Falun Gong.
Naturally Seattle council members are not impressed either.
Seattle city councilmembers say regardless of the letter, they had not planned to attend any of the group’s local performances, which are Tuesday and Wednesday at McCaw Hall.
Licata, meanwhile, says diplomatically that the letter he received reflects that the Chinese have “a different way of doing local governance than we do here in the U.S.”
“I was surprised by its tone,” Licata says. “It’s not something I took seriously, and I don’t think anyone else would as well. It’s probably just a reflection of their view of how they see the world operating, which is quite different than how people in a democracy do.”
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