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Dance performance canceled in Ecuador under pressure from Chinese embassy

G.G. Liu via Flickr

This statement was originally published on fundamedios.org on 22 May 2015.

On 22 May 2015, Falun Dafa, the organization responsible for bringing to Ecuador the dance show “The Monkey King” by the Shen Yun Performing Arts Company, reported it had been the victim of censorship, following the decision of the Ecuadorian House of Culture (CCE) to suspend activities at the National Theatre, affecting performances of the show planned for 23 and 24 May.

The reasons given by the CCE to suspend activities related to an official letter sent on 18 May 2015 by the Risk Management Secretariat, which recommended the suspension of all activities at the theatre until recommendations made by officials of the Ministry of Urban Development and Housing and the Ministry of Culture and Heritage, during an inspection on 15 May 2015, were met.

Alejandro Nadal, a spokesman for the Falun Dafa said in dialogue with Fundamedios that the suspension of activities was completely illegal, as they had all the relevant permits. He also noted that the incident was part of an explicit goal by the Chinese embassy in Ecuador to cancel the show. The embassy had been looking for ways to get the event canceled for the last month. “We have tried telling them in every possible way that they are violating the freedom of expression of the Ecuadorian people, that they are censoring culture in a democratic country and are doing so through a foreign country”, said the organization's spokesman.

Nadal explained that the pressure to cancel is connected to the fact that the company that was bringing the show includes among its members some followers of Falun Dafa – a practice or philosophical discipline that involves developing the body and mind following the principles of truth, benevolence and tolerance. This discipline has been persecuted in China since 1999. “What the Chinese Communist Party cannot tolerate in any way is that outside its country Falun Dafa enjoys freedom and can prepare and bring shows that have no political connotations whatsoever. The show is based on a classic of Chinese literature, The Journey to the West”, said Nadal. He also claimed that the reasons given by the CCE are clumsy, as it has not given the company the opportunity to put on the show on different dates.

A letter sent by Carmen Herrera Luna, a Shen Yun Performing Arts producer, along with their attorney, Rafael Oyarte, addressed to Raúl Pérez Torres, president of the CCE, explains in detail how on 26 March a contract to lease the theatre was signed by both parties. It specifies that on 8 April 2015, the Fire Department of the Metropolitan District of Quito issued an operating license, while on 17 April Risk Management approved the contingency plan for the performance of the show on the dates in question. Oyarte states that “it is astonishing that they would have us believe that the suspension responds to matters that were pointed out four months ago. The fact that the Ecuadorian House of Culture has not complied with the observations of the Fire Department of the Metropolitan District of Quito cannot be used as an argument to harm a third party who has acted in good faith and complied with all the legal requirements to present this artistic event”, states the letter.

The CCE has refrained from issuing any comments, but it has withdrawn from its website the advert for the show, which a few days earlier was included in its schedule of events.

As Shen Yun Performing Arts explains on its website, pressuring theaters and governments is a standard practice of Chinese embassies every time the company presents a show. This, however, has been the first time that a show by this company has been canceled in Latin America. Among the instances when they have been victims of censorship in 2014 are when the Chinese embassy in Spain attempted to cancel Shen Yun's shows in Barcelona, ​​while in early February last year in Berlin, Jörg Seefeld, head of events at the Stage Theater Am Potsdamer Platz, told the media about the pressure he had been under from a representative of the Chinese embassy to cancel the contract for Shen Yun's performances, according to the 12 February 2014 issue of the German newspaper Berliner Zeitung.

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