Western officials should ignore pressure from the Chinese communist regime not to attend a cultural show whose worldwide tour began in New York this week, says a long-time Canadian politician.
"No elected official or other person should pay any attention to such pressure from Chinese party-state officials," says David Kilgour, Canada's former secretary of state for Asia and one of Canada's longest-serving recent members of parliament.
Kilgour was responding to news that the Chinese consulate in New York had written to Western officials urging them not to support or attend Holiday Wonders, which debuted Tuesday night in Manhattan, and the Chinese New Year Spectacular, set to begin in January.
Both shows are hosted by NTDTV, an independent Chinese-language television station that frequently reports news censored by the communist authorities in Beijing.
Last week, New York Assemblyman Michael Benjamin received a letter from the Chinese consulate general in New York asking him "not to support in any way the Holiday Wonders and the Chinese New Year Spectacular."
Benjamin insisted the letter would not influence him.
"The CCP [Chinese Communist Party] insists to the world that there is only one China. They seek to drown out alternative voices. They fear that the world will learn the truth of their 'Animal Farm' regime," Benjamin said.
Kilgour, who attended the Chinese New Year Spectacular in Toronto last year, says Western officials who are pressured should tell the Chinese representatives they are out of line.
"They should be told that in open societies such tactics are seen by most people as an abuse of diplomatic privilege," says Kilgour. He says the NTDTV shows, which will tour over 60 cities this season, are of high artistic merit.
Last week, the Chinese embassy in Washington called management at the Ovens Auditorium in Charlotte, NC, urging them to cancel two scheduled performances of Holiday Wonders. Ovens management refused, but the incident aroused local interest in the show.
NTDTV says the Chinese authorities have tried to disrupt their shows each year, sending letters to politicians, performers, and venues, urging them not to take part in the NTDTV shows or express support.
Earlier this year, The Epoch Times reported it had obtained a document originating from China's State Administration of Radio, Film and Television. Marked "highly confidential," the document outlined the regime's efforts to derail the NTDTV shows.
"The leadership of the central government has ordered that they [the NTDTV shows] be destroyed by any and all means," said the document, which was dated Dec. 16, 2003, when NTDTV was preparing its first Chinese New Year show.
If that was not possible, orders were to "minimize their impact," the document said.
Kilgour says such interference by a foreign regime is unheard of.
"During 27 years in Canada's parliament, I never encountered similar interference from any government except that of the one in Beijing," says Kilgour. "We have about 125 foreign missions in Ottawa. The rest all know the limits of acceptable diplomatic behaviour."
While Kilgour was deputy speaker in Canada's House of Commons, Chinese embassy representatives even called him at home to urge him not to visit Taiwan, he says. He ignored the call and visited anyway, without consequence.
According to Leeshai Lemish, one of the bilingual emcees of Holiday Wonders, the shows have been targeted because they dare to probe topics like spiritual beliefs and human rights, which are suppressed in China.
"Our show is inspired by spiritual beliefs," says Lemish. "The CCP is atheistic. Any spiritual belief is fundamentally challenged."