As presenters of the Shen Yun Performing Arts dance company performances in Minneapolis, we felt compelled to reply to the Feb. 8 story, “Shen Yun’s feet dance to a debated beat.” The story’s baseless accusations and negative views do not represent the majority of Shen Yun patrons, and are at best misleading.
For thousands of years, Chinese people held strong spirituality and paid reverence to heaven through song and classical Chinese dance. This was China’s true culture, which has been destroyed under decades of suppression by the Chinese communist state. As stated on its website, Shen Yun’s mission is to revive this true, 5,000-year-old spiritual culture.
The Minnesota Falun Dafa Association presents Shen Yun in Minnesota. Falun Dafa, also known as Falun Gong, is an internationally known and respected spiritual practice from the Buddhist school of teachings. It has faced a brutal persecution during the past decade from the same communist regime responsible for destroying all spirituality and true culture in China.
Shen Yun’s artistic depiction of the persecution of Falun Gong offers a modern-day window into what happened to the essence of traditional, spiritual Chinese culture under communist rule.
In contrast to the description in the story, Shen Yun’s performances — which include traditional dances, songs and ancient storytelling — evoke the universal themes of dignity, courage and compassion. The show has deeply touched millions of hearts worldwide, including figures from the arts industry like Joy Behar, former host of ABC’s “The View,” who called it “A beautiful show … fantastic! If you ever get a chance to see it you should.”
Surveys taken around the world show a 97 percent approval rating, with many shows including return patrons. At many theaters, standing ovations are common.
Shen Yun indeed receives endorsements and messages of support from Hollywood celebrities, mayors and academics. However, Shen Yun does not “aggressively” solicit” these. They are freely and enthusiastically given by these audience members. The fact that Minnesota’s U.S. Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken may have not seen the show does not diminish their kind diplomatic gesture to offer greetings to an international group that is committed to bringing a cultural show to Minnesota.
What concerns us most is that the story claims that the Falun Dafa Association has “cultlike” tendencies because the reporter’s requests for an interview were ignored. However, our refusal to reply was solely because we were aware of a negative blog post the reporter wrote about the show in 2013.
The “cult” label was created by the Chinese communist regime to help fuel its illegal, decadelong campaign of persecution against the once-respected and awarded Falun Gong. Based on this hatred, innocent people in China, to this day, continue to be tortured to death.
It is well known that the U.S. State Department, Amnesty International and others have repeatedly condemned this persecution and have referred to the Chinese regime’s campaign against Falun Gong as one of unjustified religious persecution rather than as a legitimate government policy to rid society of a supposedly negative influence.
Given the role that such slander has had in the brutal persecution of innocent people and the fact that no factual basis for these slurs has ever been demonstrated, we feel sad that your reporter would use such tactics to try to harm our reputation.
In 2015, Shen Yun will perform to more than 1 million audience members in approximately 100 cities around the world, gracing some of the world’s most prestigious stages.
This is the eighth successful year that we have brought Shen Yun Performing Arts to Minnesota, and we are truly honored to be able to bring this extraordinary production to our city. We thank the thousands of people who rave about the show and continue to come back year after year.
Joy Zhao is presenter representative of Shen Yun Performing Arts (Minnesota).