CCP Targets Shen Yun

In May 2023, the FBI arrested two Chinese men who were caught trying to bribe a U.S. federal official in a scheme to “topple” Shen Yun.

These arrests are just the tip of the iceberg...

For more than 15 years, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has waged a global campaign against Shen Yun consisting of illicit diplomatic pressure, sabotage, bribery, disinformation, and even physical attacks spanning five continents.

Internal party documents reveal that instructions to sabotage Shen Yun come from the very top of the CCP. Central authorities have issued directives that deem suppressing Shen Yun to be “an important part of the … struggle against Falun Gong,” while lower security officials order a “targeted crackdown” on the group.

In a recent special report, the Falun Dafa Information Center documented more than 130 incidents of interference by Chinese officials or their proxies targeting Shen Yun across 38 countries—including the United States—since 2007.

Why the CCP targets Shen Yun?

The CCP has spent nearly 25 years trying to eradicate and demonize Falun Gong and even longer to destroy China’s traditional culture in order to instill Marxism in people. All these efforts can be unraveled by a Shen Yun performance, which showcases authentic Chinese culture, world-class artistry by talented Falun Gong practitioners, and storylines about the CCP’s deadly religious persecution. Therefore, the CCP views Shen Yun’s work as a threat to its legitimacy and sees the company’s success as an existential threat to its hold on power. According to a 2010 internal Communist Party notice, “combatting and suppressing…Shen Yun” is an important priority.

Thug Diplomacy

The most visible of tactics used by the CCP is deploying Chinese diplomats to exert direct pressure on theater managers and local government officials. In the majority of cities Shen Yun has performed worldwide, the theater manager, and sometimes the mayor, receive a letter, email and even personal visit from the local Chinese consulate demanding they do not allow Shen Yun to perform. This pressure often carries with it threats of economic and political “repercussions.” In most cases, the response from theater managers or mayors is defiant and clear, but some have caved to CCP pressure.

Dangers on the Road

In 2010, a series of vehicle sabotage incidents made it clear that Shen Yun performers’ lives could be at risk. In cities like Chicago, Atlanta, Fort Worth, and Little Rock, Shen Yun performers, staff, and local volunteers returned to vehicles that had slashed tires or corrosive chemicals poured over the brakes; these acts of sabotage occurred within days of each other and at the same time as similar incidents in Canada, implying a multi-country coordinated attack. On multiple occasions, the tire slashes were made in a precise manner to not immediately deflate, but rather, prone to bursting at high speeds. These tire slashes were done to the front tires, to increase the likelihood of losing control of the vehicles.

From 2010 to the present day, Shen Yun vehicles are guarded 24 hours a day to prevent further sabotage.

Campus in the Crosshairs

Shen Yun’s training center is located on a 400-acre campus in upstate New York called Dragon Springs. According to leaked CCP documents, targeting this campus is a priority for the regime. The campus has faced vandalism, frequent spying via drones, frivolous lawsuits from China-linked groups, and localized social media campaigns spreading falsehoods. Law enforcement have mobilized to protect the campus from Chinese individuals making threats to the campus. In an unprecedented case, federal U.S. prosecutors charged two men from the area with attempting to bribe a federal official to target Shen Yun Performing Arts.


Disinformation is a core tactic used by the CCP to attack its perceived enemies and the campaign against Shen Yun is no different. Disinformation targeting Shen Yun falls into three distinct categories:

  1. False narratives delivered by Chinese diplomats to theater managers and local government leaders. Alongside threats of economic reprisals, these claims are relayed as part of the pressure campaign upon them not to host or attend Shen Yun performances. Examples of typical narratives include CCP accusations that Falun Gong is a “cult” and Shen Yun a mere “propaganda” show for Falun Gong, as well as regurgitation of other standard anti-Falun Gong disinformation central to the regime’s campaign to demonize and eliminate the spiritual practice. These assertions have repeatedly been debunked. For example, Chinese experts and journalists, among them the University of Pennsylvania’s Arthur Waldron and Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Ian Johnson, have called the designation of Falun Gong as a “cult” inappropriate and false. By contrast, Professor Waldron has praised Shen Yun as an “authentic treasure” of Chinese civilization.
  2. Targeted social media campaigns that deliberately spread lies. One of the starkest examples of this tactic was a rumor campaign from February 2020 in Salt Lake City that originated on WeChat, a heavily censored social media platform owned by China-based company Tencent. The campaign spread lies that Shen Yun performers were from China and carrying COVID, encouraging prospective audience members not to attend upcoming shows and prompting many to call the theater directly to complain. The impact of the campaign was so extensive that the Utah Department of Health and Human Services posted a message on Twitter exposing such rumors as false because Shen Yun is from New York, and indeed, cannot even perform in China, let alone be “from” there. Within 48 hours, similar campaigns appeared on Facebook targeting Shen Yun’s training center in Orange County, New York.
  3. Seeding dissemination of false narratives about Falun Gong and Shen Yun likely to be picked up by Western media companies. The most direct example was a paid insert by Chinese state-owned newspaper China Daily that was published in January 2017 in mainstream newspapers throughout the United States, Europe, and Australia, including The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, and The London Telegraph. The article title refers to Shen Yun falsely as “A Blasphemy that Masquarades as Art” and appears to the undiscerning eye as a regular article written by the local newspaper, part of a longer running campaign by the CCP to insert state-run content in global news outlets. More recently, the regime’s tactic has shifted to promoting carefully attuned claims about Falun Gong that relate to sensitive topics in the West, which indirectly entices some Western media companies to adopt these narratives in attacking Shen Yun by association. Examples of this include the false accusation that Falun Gong is racist because it “forbids interracial marriage.” This narrative first appeared on English language versions of Chinese government websites (this narrative is noticeably absent from the disinformation about Falun Gong spread inside China where race relations is not a dominant social issue). It was picked up by several suspicious news wires and outlets that carry CCP propaganda, before appearing in some Western media publications. The sole sources for such accusations is CCP propaganda and statements made by CCP sympathizers. Reality tells a very different story. In Falun Gong communities around the world, interracial marriages and mixed-race children are commonplace, with spouses in interracial marriages serving in prominent Falun Gong roles, such as community representatives, or as principal dancers, musicians, or key staff in Shen Yun.

In the Media

CHINA UNSCRIPTED Falun Dafa Information Center executive director, Levi Browde, sits down with the China Unscripted team to discuss the key findings, cases, and recommendations of a new, special report on the CCP’s global campaign targeting Shen Yun.

AMERICAN THOUGHT LEADERS Shen Yun MC Leeshai Lemish discusses diplomatic thuggery, slashing bus tires, and other illicit tactics employed by CCP to silence and malign Shen Yun.

AMERICAN THOUGHT LEADERS Shen Yun MC, Jared Madsen, and conductor, Ying Chen, offer insights into Shen Yun’s growth, success, and why the CCP wants to cancel the company worldwide.