As soon as I saw this in our mailbox today, it reminded me of something I’d read in the news a couple years ago. A certain religious group in China, famous for being brutally persecuted by the gov’t in the late 90’s, was apparently squandering Western public sympathy by selling tickets to Chinese cultural stage performances that contained explicit (but unadvertised) political and spiritual messages. This was making some Euro-Americans feel deceived. People felt ripped off that they’d come for a family show and got explicit politicking and proselytizing.
I didn’t know if this was them or not. My suspicious were heightened when I read the vague but very spiritual introduction section and this statement:
A performance like Shen Yun can no longer be found in China today because many of China’s best artistic traditions have been lost in recent decades.
The last page confirmed my guess. Turns out the performance advertised in the pamphlet (not mailed but hand-delivered to our door by an elderly Chinese man) is put on by the “evil cult” at the top of the Chinese government’s hit list — one of the largest, most viciously persecuted Chinese religious groups in the last fifteen years. There were propaganda posters in our neighbourhood in Tianjin denouncing them (see here for images and translations), and you have to walk past their demonstration to get into the Chinese consulate in Vancouver. To avoid tempting China’s net nanny I won’t write their name here, but here’s a picture:
I don’t blame them for presenting their religion and protest message through art and entertainment like they do. We Westerners are, after all, well-accustomed to ideological propaganda in our entertainment; that — and money — is what our entertainment is all about. But it takes a little more nuance and subtly to do this effectively to a Western audience, as evidenced by the negative reactions they’ve provoked (here’s an example). Who knows, maybe this go around they’ve tailored their message a little better.
Anyway, it’s interesting to find yet another example of China popping up in the daily life of Canadians. For more about this particular “evil cult”, see:
- Recent propaganda from Tianjin, China: evil, scheming, bloodthirsty cults! (China Hope Live)
- Shen Yun Performing Arts
- Politics and art blend in contentious Chinese show (Toronto.com)
- Shen Yunâ€™s Display of Traditional Chinese Culture Scares Chinese Regime (Epoch Times — the ‘evil cult’s’ news agency)