About >

    Challenges We Face

Will the World Allow the Chinese Communist Party to Dictate the Arts?

Based in New York, Shen Yun Performing Arts was established by Falun Dafa practitioners in 2006. The company’s mission is to use performing arts to revive the essence of Chinese culture—traditionally considered a divinely inspired civilization. Since the CCP is officially an atheist regime, it is afraid of the freedom of expression this arts company enjoys in the West.

In 1999, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) initiated a persecution campaign against Falun Dafa, a meditation discipline based on the principles of truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance (what is Falun Dafa?). While Falun Dafa practitioners in China continue to face horrific abuse, the Party has been extending its persecution outside of China. This includes harassing Shen Yun, which we will explore in this article.

Why would the CCP harass Falun Dafa practitioners outside China? The primary aim is to prevent them from revealing the tragic reality of the persecution to the world—but that is not the only reason. The Party is also trying to infiltrate Western society to manipulate the international community’s opinion of Falun Dafa. Here are the main channels the CCP uses:

  • “We hope everyone here follows the embassy’s instructions” - Chinese Ambassador to Canada Mei Ping, said to student association representatives.
    Chinese Student Associations:At university campuses around the world, Chinese student associations are under the direct supervision of Chinese embassies and consulates, and receive financial support from them. Student association representatives act as spokespeople for the embassies and periodically carry out assignments at the CCP’s behest, such as disinformation campaigns.
  • N.Y. Chinese Consul General at a local business meeting.
    CHINESE BUSINESS ASSOCIATIONS:Enticed by the prospect of economic benefits, some overseas Chinese business associations have come under the control of Chinese embassies, and take various actions on the communist regime’s behalf. A typical example was a series of hate crimes that took place against Falun Dafa practitioners in New York’s Flushing neighborhood in 2008: in one instance, the Chinese consul general was at the scene inciting hatred and personally directing people to harass others, leading to physical attacks against local residents who practice Falun Dafa.
  • From scapegoat to propaganda tool: During the Cultural Revolution, the CCP labeled Confucius “The Number One Bastard.”
    Confucius Institutes:The Confucius Institutes are one of the CCP’s main overseas propaganda initiatives. The regime currently operates over 300 institutes in 93 countries, planning to reach 1,000 institutes by 2020. Officially affiliated with the Communist Party, the Confucius Institutes claim to be places for learning and cultural exchange, but in fact are a key part of the regime’s public image facelift. In these institutions in the West, it is the CCP that determines what is taught and what is not. These schools have shown to be a platform for indoctrinating students with the Party’s version of history, culture, and current affairs, while avoiding mention of human rights abuses, massacres, and ethnic cleansings.

I. The CCP’s Systematic Attempts to Sabotage Shen Yun

Since Shen Yun’s inception, the company has had to overcome CCP interference, with the Party changing its sabotage strategies annually:

The First Year

When the newborn Shen Yun was in its very first year, the CCP dispatched some 60 performance companies to compete with Shen Yun around the world in an effort to make it impossible for Shen Yun to survive financially. Still, as Shen Yun audiences came into direct contact with authentic Chinese culture, Shen Yun’s popularity and reputation quickly grew.

The Second Year

During Shen Yun’s second tour, the CCP required China’s performance troupes to participate in its campaign to compete against Shen Yun, allowing anyone who could perform to travel overseas. The main objective was to undercut Shen Yun. Often, the competing shows were set up across the street from Shen Yun’s theater during the same exact dates. Again, the result was many failed attempts and a squandering of national resources.

The Third Year

In Shen Yun’s third world tour, the CCP not only dispatched many troupes, but also ordered its embassies and consulates around the world to pressure theaters. Its representatives then called, wrote to, and visited theaters in the United States, Asia, and Europe, urging them not to sign contracts with Shen Yun or to nullify existing agreements. They went so far as to threaten that, if the theater managers did not comply, the country’s political and economic relations with China would suffer. In free countries, this was mostly regarded as a joke. Contracts were almost never cancelled, and this strategy also failed.

The Fourth Year

During Shen Yun’s fourth year on tour, the CCP tried a new tactic—organizing people to pose as Falun Dafa practitioners. These people sent letters with delirious, nonsensical content to theaters in order to give the venues a negative impression of Shen Yun and Falun Dafa. However, by this point theaters had already worked with Shen Yun for several years, and knew exactly what Shen Yun and Falun Dafa were about. The result? Theaters instead gained a worse impression of the CCP. Shen Yun’s performances continued as usual.

The Fifth Year

By Shen Yun’s fifth tour, having seen its previous tactics fail, the CCP stooped yet lower. Shen Yun’s tour vehicles were tampered with, in one case a cut was made in the front tire of a bus such that it would not instantly deflate but would explode under high pressure on the freeway; fortunately, this was discovered during inspection. Other than occasional annoyance, no serious trouble has ensued from this strategy.

Despite employing these multiple tactics, the CCP has been unable to stop the performances. Shen Yun now tours the world, performing in over 100 cities every year; most shows are sold-out. We are told Shen Yun has caused a sensation, and going to see Shen Yun has become the latest trend. Perhaps after reading this article, many more people will be interested in seeing a Shen Yun performance and finding out why one of the supposedly most powerful governments in the world is so afraid of a performing arts company.

II. Manipulation of Chinese Students to Deceive Non-Chinese Artists

As the demand for Shen Yun performances has increased,   Shen Yun has naturally grown in size and is continuously recruiting new artists.

To try to interfere with Shen Yun’s growth, Chinese embassies and consulates have specifically held meetings with Chinese student associations in the United States and other countries. In these meetings, they give overseas Chinese students prepared disinformation documents about Falun Dafa and Shen Yun. With these young students, the communist regime’s representatives take the approach of: “We represent our motherland, so we take care of you and tell you these things for your own good. You can also help our country against those who are trying to embarrass us.”

This way, they not only instill lies and hatred among Chinese students, they also take advantage of their patriotism to spread falsehood in Western countries. They attempt to dupe talented non-Chinese artists, causing them to develop misunderstandings and negative views toward Shen Yun. This will on occasion prevent these talented students from taking positions with Shen Yun, missing out on great opportunities.

III. Those Who Are Misled Are the Real Victims

Over 200,000 Chinese study overseas.
While in China, they were instilled with the Party’s hatred toward Falun Dafa through state-run media, state-run education, and in-person meetings with officials before traveling abroad. Now overseas, many of these students are consciously or unconsciously spreading fabrications; often, they are not even aware of how they were manipulated to believe what they do.

Upon hearing their Chinese classmates repeat the slander, many other students are easily deceived. If they lack the financial means to attend a Shen Yun performance, it is even more difficult for them to find out what Shen Yun actually is. So they often blindly believe the falsehoods.

But Shen Yun’s development can create so many opportunities for these gifted students to display their talents on the world stage and, at the same time, help them gain financial security. Especially under the current recession, when more and more performance companies are going bankrupt, working for Shen Yun can be a great opportunity. Yet sadly, these non-Chinese students are being deceived by China’s Communist Party, and they do not even know it themselves.

IV. What is Falun Dafa?

Truthfulness Compassion Forbearance

Both China and the West  have a long history of artists integrating spirituality into their work. Today, Shen Yun's artists follow this tradition, drawing inspiration from the spiritual discipline Falun Dafa.

Falun Dafa, also known as Falun Gong, is a self-practice system that combines ancient Chinese teachings with meditation exercises. The principal text, written by Falun Dafa founder Li Hongzhi, is Zhuan Falun. It teaches practitioners to live by three basic principles: Truthfulness (Zhen 真), Compassion (Shan 善), Forbearance (Ren 忍).

Practicing Falun Dafa is more than just meditation, it is a state of mind oriented towards self-betterment and putting others first. These qualities have taken root in many Shen Yun performers’ daily lives and flow naturally from their artistic expression.
Keep reading to learn more about the practice and why it is such an important part of the Shen Yun experience.

An Ancient

Falun Dafa has a heritage dating back thousands of years  when it existed as teachings passed down secretly from one master to one disciple for generations. It was introduced to the public in 1992 when its founder, Li Hongzhi gave the first series of lectures on the practice in his hometown of Changchun, in northeastern China.

Over the following two years, he traveled across China (and later to France and Sweden) giving similar nine-day seminars over 50 times. Over the next few years, interest in the practice skyrocketed, fueled by word of Falun Dafa’s moral and health benefits; China’s State Sports Administration estimated over 70 million people practiced Falun Dafa.



On July 20, 1999, thousands were arrested and official persecution began.   Massive arrests ensued along with the confiscation of Falun Gong-related materials. A nationwide propaganda campaign was launched in synch.

How could such a persecution come about? The then-Chinese Communist Party Chairman Jiang Zemin felt threatened by the sheer number of practitioners. Falun Dafa practitioners did not see their spiritual practice as being in conflict with the government, but Jiang saw them as a threat. MORE >

Left: Practitioners in Tiananmen beaten by plainclothes policemen, dragged into police van.

The Courage of

The Party’s goal of eradicating Falun Dafa through violence has proven futile.  
Practitioners in China have responded to persecution with pacifism—holding banners on Tiananmen Square, smuggling letters out of labor camps, sliding leaflets under doors at night. At great risk to themselves, they set out to expose the lies and tell people the truth about the persecution these innocent people face.

Left: Practitioner raises a yellow banner at Tiananmen. The Chinese characters read “Truth, Compassion, Forbearance”

Inspired, Shen Yun’s artistic team is bringing these stories to stages around the world, depicting them through song and dance dramas. It turns out this courage and message of hope has moved Shen Yun’s performers and audience members alike.  (Discover more: Shen Yun's 2011 dance “No Regret”)