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Shen Yun Dancers Promote Pro-Trump Falun Gong Propaganda?

The Washington Pavilion in Sioux Falls is hosting the Shen Yun Performing Arts group on Wednesday. For $80 to $180, Shen Yun promises to delight audiences with a representation and restoration of glorious Chinese civilization before Communism:

The traditional Chinese culture Shen Yun presents cannot be seen anywhere else in the world—not even in China. There, the ruling communist regime has viewed China’s rich spiritual and artistic heritage as a threat to its ideology and for decades tried to erase it.

But in 2006, a group of Chinese artists came together in New York with a vision: to revive the best of China’s cultural heritage and share it with the world. They drew courage and inspiration from their practice of Falun Dafa—a spiritual discipline based on the principles of truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance. The company’s repertoire includes important works shedding light on the plight of people like them in communist China today.

After a decade of performing around the world to sold-out audiences everywhere, Shen Yun has brought a great civilization back from the brink of extinction [Shen Yun Performing Arts, Sioux Falls program website, retrieved 2022.01.24].

Shen Yun is also a marketing ploy developed by the Falun Dafa/Falun Gong cult founded in 1992 by a guy, Li Hongzhi, who rejects evolution, homosexuality, extramarital sex and reporters’ questions:

Li has been open about his beliefs that evolution is fraudulent, that people of different races will be separated in Heaven, and that homosexuality and promiscuity are unnatural. He told Time that aliens were attempting to control humans by making us dependent on modern science. (He intended to be metaphorical, he later said.) A San Francisco man named Samuel Luo has claimed that his mother and stepfather refused essential medical treatment because of Falun Gong’s teachings that sickness is based in karma; he has also claimed that they came to believe that it was the gods’ plan to eliminate the gay population. Luo set up a Web site called The Untold Story of Falun Gong in 2007, and Falun Gong responded by complaining to the domain provider. The organization also threatened to sue the International Cultic Studies Association for bringing Luo to a conference as a presenter. Other religions resist modern medicine, and many faiths have held racist views or have opposed homosexuality (or both). But Falun Gong’s defensive reactions not only to criticism but to basic journalistic inquiry can suggest an institution that would prefer people not ask very many questions. In response to a list of questions related to this article, a representative from Falun Gong’s information center, who had previously clarified a few points over the phone, sent an impassioned, six-hundred-word e-mail expressing dismay at some of the details mentioned in the questions and arguing that negative stories about Falun Gong make it easier for the Chinese government to wage its campaign of persecution. The representative asked that he not be quoted at all. He did not answer any of the questions. (I separately requested comment, multiple times, from Shen Yun, but never heard back.) [Jia Tolentino, “Stepping into the Uncanny, Unsettling World of Shen Yun,” The New Yorker, 2019.03.19]

Falun Gong is also closely tied to the radical right-wing newspaper Epoch Times, which has made beaucoup bucks promoting Trump and his lies. Posturing against Chinese Communist tyranny while promoting American capitalist tyranny—now that’s quite the dance!

11 Comments

  1. Donald Pay 2022-01-24

    The question mark is not needed. It’s got a lot of production value, but it’s based on Falun Gong propaganda. They have a lot of money for promotion. It is fascist political organization masked as a spiritual movement. Like a lot of the fascists in the US (and in pre-Nazi Germany), they wallow in fake victimhood, which sells well in America.

    Falun Gong has gone through a lot of marketing stages since it was founded in the 1990s. They became pretty big in China for a time with their exercise and meditation programs. The Chinese government didn’t care about Falon Gong until it started pushing insurrectionist measures, then it clamped down.

  2. Porter Lansing 2022-01-24

    Thanks for pointing out the back story of these phonies, Cory.
    They came to CO but stuck to performances in the Republican towns of Greely and Colorado Springs.
    Apparently, their PR people know where the MAGA’s hide out in Colorado.

  3. Mark Anderson 2022-01-24

    It goes back to the stopped clock example. The stopped clock is correct twice a day. Falun Gong is right about Chinese Communism, wrong about everything else. It’s a simple religious cult. If you like Qanon, all right wing conspiracies, trump, you’ll love these boys. However, they have a nice place in upstate New York, they do meditate, that could be the evening of the stopped clock. I’ll have to meditate on that one.

  4. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2022-01-25

    Stay tuned: one John Moran, who pops up under various reports of Falun Gong’s questionable activities, writes me a long email and promises a longer one complaining about the false and “hateful” statements made above. I have invited him to add his pro-Falun Gong propaganda here… but I suspect I may regret that invitation.

    Chinese Communists are bad. American Trumpists are bad. Shen Yun sounds like just another flavor of manipulation by spectacle, not worth my $80.

  5. Monty 2022-01-25

    Anybody else receive free editions of Epoch Times? I have received 2, and the address section made me question if it was sent using voter file data.

  6. Steve Pearson 2022-01-25

    I’d like to know how all of you truly feel about China Communists.

  7. Monty 2022-01-25

    I’m interested in who sold their voter file to Chinese Communists.

  8. John Moran 2022-01-25

    I politely made three points in an email to the author, which I would ask any fair-minded reader to consider:

    1. The article that Mr. Heidelberger linked to as support for his accusation that Falun Gong is a “cult” actually says “Despite Beijing’s insistence, Falun Gong is not a cult…” Mr. Heidelberger misrepresented his own source. It is unfortunate that instead of correcting this mistake after it was brought to his attention, he prefers to continue with unjustified name-calling. You may find some Falun Gong beliefs strange or objectionable, but it is irresponsible to repeat hateful smears that the Chinese government uses to justify brutal repression of Falun Gong practitioners in China to this day.

    2. Falun Gong practitioners’ protests against the CCP are not a matter of “posturing,” as the article dismissively put it. Many Falun Gong practitioners in the United States (including some Shen Yun members) have relatives who were disappeared, imprisoned, tortured or killed in China. Many endured torture themselves simply because they would not renounce their spiritual beliefs. If anyone thinks this is just propaganda or “fake victimhood,” then I would encourage you to do a little research, like reviewing the Judgment of the Independent Tribunal into Forced Organ Harvesting from Prisoners of Conscience in China, available at https://chinatribunal.com/final-judgment-report/, or Ethan Gutmann’s book The Slaughter, or any of Ian Johnson’s reporting on the persecution of Falun Gong (for which he won a Pulitzer Prize), or watch any of several documentaries on the subject including Red Reign or Human Harvest (both available on Amazon Prime).

    3. Falun Gong is not political, and Shen Yun has never promoted Trump contrary to the title of Mr. Heidelberger’s post. It is true that some individual Falun Gong practitioners operate the Epoch Times, and it is true that support for Trump is widespread among Falun Gong practitioners (and sometimes quite overzealous in my opinion), but Falun Gong practitioners have diverse political views, and support for Trump or right-wing politics is not part of Falun Gong teachings. This and some other misconceptions concerning Falun Gong are addressed at https://faluninfo.net/misconceptions/.

  9. Donald Pay 2022-01-25

    Steve Pearson, As someone who values democracy, I feel about the same way about the Chinese Communist Party as I do about the Trump Republican Party: I don’t like it in the least.

    My daughter has lived and worked in Beijing for about 17 years, and she has seen the good and bad of the Chinese system. Generally, post-Mao, it’s a merit-based system, as it was pre-Communism, but run within the Communist Party. Most of the top leadership is extremely well educated, many in western graduate schools. They know what they are doing, and they plan well over time frames that the US system simply can’t match.

    Before Xi, China was on a slow trajectory toward greater openness and democracy, if not open two party or multi-party elections. There are elections at the local village level, but those do not reach large cities, provinces or the whole country. In the last few years, there has been a retrenchment as Xi consolidates power. The Chinese internet used to be very open. Xi has gradually closed it. It’s a dual economy, with state owned enterprises in big established industries and a lot of capitalism in newer industries and service industries. Xi is putting pressure on the free market economy to be more in-line with overall state policies, and that means ending the corruption that occurs in provinces and municipal government. Corruption at lower levels is a big problem causing the over-built office and residential real estate markets in many places. Trump was trying to crack into this corruption before he sought the US presidency, by the way.
    Policies in Xianjiang are genocidal. I think the China’s policies in the East and South China Seas are really stupid and dangerous.

    Whatever I have to say, Xi is popular, particularly for standing up to the US and getting control over corruption.

  10. Albert 2022-02-28

    I agree with John Moran’s statements. I lived in Jiangsu Province and worked as a teacher there 23 years ago; it was the cusp of the persecution of Falun Gong. The persecution is horrific and shouldn’t be written off. I helped edit multiple books submitted to the United Nations Human Rights Commission that documented, case-by-case, Falun Gong practitioners who were tortured and killed. Ignoring the persecution of Falun Gong while criticizing its beliefs is no different than criticizing Jewish beliefs in the midst of the Holocaust, or scoffing at the treatment of the Muslim Uighurs in the midst of their massive mistreatment currently.

    Also, Falun Gong doesn’t fit the definition of a cult. When people slap that label on it, it serves the Chinese Communist Party by helping it justify its persecution – harassment, forced labor camps, gang rape, torture, and organ harvesting – while creating apathy around the world towards the plight of the Chinese who practice it.

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