Chinese Agents Use Coronavirus Fears to Attack US-based Shen Yun
U.S. Department of Health Concerned about Stoking Racist Fears
Over the past week, a coordinated group of individuals likely working as Chinese agents have waged a campaign to sideline Shen Yun Performing Arts in the United States by falsely claiming members of the dance company have recently returned from China and pose a health threat to theater-goers.
In fact, Shen Yun is based in New York and banned in China. None of its performers have been back to China for many years.
A Sabotage Campaign
Staff at several theaters around the U.S. where Shen Yun is scheduled to perform have reported phone calls from Chinese people making these false allegations. Theater staff have also shared emails they received from individuals with Chinese names making similar bogus claims.
One operator selling Shen Yun tickets over the phone says some of the callers gave Hispanic names despite speaking with a thick Chinese accent.
Several WeChat group discussions reveal individuals coordinating and making plans to stop Shen Yun from performing in U.S. cities, including plans to call the CDC.
The rumors got so bad in Salt Lake City that the Utah Department of Health issued a tweet reassuring people the rumors were not true: “We are aware of several rumors regarding the Shen Yun dance troupe performances in SLC. We have investigated them and have no reason to believe that any members of the Shen Yun dance troupe are infected with COVID-19. These performances pose no risk to Utah residents.”
According to a report by the Daily Beast, a spokesman for the Philadelphia department of public health says the false claims are “a shame… Shen Yun isn’t a threat at all.”
The campaign appears to extend abroad as well.
One theater manager in Korea says he received a call from a reporter who was told by Chinese consulate staff that some Shen Yun artists were from Wuhan, China (the epicenter of the Coronavirus), and it would be “dangerous” to allow Shen Yun to perform.
“These rumors are clearly orchestrated by Chinese agents who have utilized a range of techniques over the years aimed at sabotaging Shen Yun,” says Falun Dafa Information Center spokesman Erping Zhang. “Sadly, they have even utilized the real danger posed by this virus to spread lies in an effort to silence people and incite discrimination.”
Shen Yun Based in New York, Banned in China
A press release issued by Shen Yun last week highlights the irony of accusing Shen Yun staff of recently returning from China: “Shen Yun’s performers—dancers, musicians, as well as technical crew—all live and train in New York. As individuals, they are also banned from traveling to China, long ago having been blacklisted by the Chinese government for their involvement in Shen Yun. No performer has been back to China in years,” the release explains.
According to Shen Yun’s official website, the company was founded in 2006 by ex-pat Chinese artists “to revive the true, divinely inspired culture of China and share it with the world.”
The recent press release goes on to explain “Such a mission could only be undertaken outside of China. That is because in China the communist regime has spent the last seventy years trying to systematically destroy traditional culture, values, and the arts.”
A Pattern of Attacking Shen Yun
Mr. Leeshai Lemish, an emcee for Shen Yun, has chronicled the tactics used by Chinese agents to thwart Shen Yun around world. On his website, Mr. Lemish documents 70 tactics used in 25 countries — all aimed at preventing Shen Yun from performing.
In addition to using foreign diplomats to pressure theaters and local governments to cancel Shen Yun shows, Mr. Lemish says “the tactics used range from cyber-attacks against Shen Yun’s ticketing website, to hiring local thugs to slash Shen Yun’s bus tires, to mobilizing online commenters to post negative reviews about Shen Yun. They even organize people to pose as Falun Gong practitioners to send letters to theaters with delirious, nonsensical content in order to give the venues a negative impression of Shen Yun and Falun Gong,”
- The Washington Post covered this story in its health section.
- The Daily Beast covered this story, citing “deranged calls” spreading “bogus fears of Shen Yun.”