Western artists, officials, and theatre-goers are singing the praises of a Chinese cultural show that opened in New York last week, despite the best efforts of Chinese missions overseas, who have been working behind the scenes to quash the production.
Two U.S. officials have confirmed to The Epoch Times that they received letters from Chinese consulates in the U.S. warning them not to attend or express support for the cultural shows.
Holiday Wonders opened in Manhattan and Baltimore last week as part of a tour of Chinese Spectaculars that will visit over 60 cities this season. The first of six Canadian stops will be Ottawa, starting Jan. 12.
The shows are hosted by NTDTV, an independent Chinese-language television station that frequently reports news censored by the communist authorities in Beijing.
The spectaculars depict traditional Chinese values that have been suppressed in China over decades of communist rule. And this has audiences raving.
"It's good to learn about the positive side of Chinese culture," said Ted Kavanau, founding senior producer of CNN and founding president of Headline News. He recently took in Holiday Wonders.
"I know Western music and Western ballet, but some of the things you see in Chinese dance you don't see in the West," he said. "I had no idea of the complexity of the Chinese style and the skill it takes; it must take years of preparation … It's really a remarkable achievement."
Kavanau described Holiday Wonders as "highly professional in every single way" and "excellent."
Israel Chorberg, a former concertmaster with the American Ballet saw Holiday Wonders earlier this week.
"This show is original," said Chorberg. "Even the costumes; I have never seen that kind on stage before."
His wife Tamara, a concert pianist, said, "I love the way they dance as if floating. And the coordination and the music are so perfect."
Presented in both English and Chinese, Holiday Wonders and the Chinese New Year Spectacular are filled with references to China's rich 5000-year history.
There is also reference to contemporary China. One dance portrays the persecution of Falun Gong practitioners by Chinese police, a common and grave human rights abuse in China today.
That has particularly angered Chinese communist officials.
Chinese Consulates Interfere
On Dec. 11, Fort Lauderdale Mayor Jim Naugle received a letter signed by Qiao Hong , the Chinese consul general in Houston, warning him that Falun Gong was "outlawed" in China and that attending Holiday Wonders or sending a greeting to the show would have "bad effects on [his] personal reputation."
This kind of pressure is inappropriate, according to David Kilgour, Canada's former secretary of state for Asia and one of Canada's longest-serving recent members of parliament.
"No elected official or other person should pay any attention to such pressure from Chinese party-state officials," says Kilgour.
Naugle appears to agree. Warned against attending or supporting the shows, Naugle has promised to do both. He declared Dec. 27 "Holiday Wonders Day" in Fort Lauderdale.
Others have responded similarly.
Two weeks ago, 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 are of high artistic merit.
Chinese Embassy Pressures Theater
Earlier this month, 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.
Yvonne Johnson, the mayor of Greensboro, NC attended Holiday Wonders when it arrived in her city and remarked that it was "definitely the best show I have ever seen."
Carrie Hung, a spokesperson for NTDTV, believes the Chinese regime opposes its shows because the network is an independent Chinese-language media outlet, and "the Chinese regime wants to silence all independent voices."
She also sees another reason behind the regime's actions.
"The Holiday Wonders is Chinese," says Huang. "It is all about traditional Chinese culture. But the Chinese Communist Party has always completely opposed China's traditional culture."
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, except with the Chinese.
"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."
Additional reporting by Epoch Times staff in New York, Washington, and Chicago.