Lawmaker Asks How US Can Protect Shen Yun Against Malign CCP Campaign

Eva Fu
By Eva Fu
April 17, 2024Congress

WASHINGTON—An escalating Chinese campaign aimed at silencing a U.S. arts group was brought up at an April 17 hearing on the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP’s) political warfare against the United States.

Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) raised the alarm over several recent fake bomb threats targeting New York-based Shen Yun Performing Arts, whose slogan, “China before communism,” has made it a target of Beijing for nearly two decades.

Ms. Norton cited emails sent to theater officials threatening mass shootings and bombings if they refused to cancel Shen Yun’s performances. She also cited multiple instances in which the tires on Shen Yun’s tour buses were slashed. Although the bomb and shooting threats turned out to be empty, the bus tires were slashed in such a way that they would have exploded when driven at speed.

“What could the United States be doing to protect this group?” Ms. Norton asked hearing witness Peter Mattis, president of The Jamestown Foundation, a think tank.

The United States has to “actively be investigating those as crimes,” Mr. Mattis said.

“They have to be a priority for investigative resources not simply for local police departments, but also for federal law enforcement,” he told the lawmakers.

“When we see those actions, they are frankly criminal acts by a foreign government against our people on our soil. This is something that has to be prioritized with a response in the bilateral relationship with the [People’s Republic of China] rather than a shoulder shrug, or something that we can quietly say that we talked about later.”

Rep. Michael Cloud (R-Texas) said he sees the campaign as a part of a broader Chinese influence operation for dominance.

“It fits within what we’ve seen about using intimidation tactics, about just the moral impetus of unrestricted warfare, where you’re doing whatever you can to exert your political will, regardless of what inalienable rights that people should have,” he told The Epoch Times after the hearing.

“We want people to prosper under the principles of freedom that allow us to be prosperous and free here at home for centuries. We’d love to see that everywhere all over the world. But the CCP’s goals do not align with that objective.”

Targeted for Their Faith

Ms. Norton highlighted the fact that Shen Yun is targeted “in the United States by China on the basis of their practice of Falun Gong.”

Falun Gong is a spiritual practice based on the core tenets of truthfulness, compassion, and forbearance, and the group has been severely persecuted in China since 1999. Many of Shen Yun’s performers practice Falun Gong as a means of self-improvement.

When Rep. Tim Burchett (R-Tenn.) asked hearing witnesses about how the CCP shuts down criticism of its human rights abuses, retired Brig. Gen. Robert Spalding pointed to the example of Falun Gong.

Retired U.S. Air Force brigadier general Robert Spalding
Retired U.S. Air Force brigadier general Robert Spalding in Washington on May 29, 2019. (Samira Bouaou/The Epoch Times)

“It uses our own media,” Gen. Spalding said. “One good example is its attack on the Falun Gong. It’s basically convinced the entire academic university system in the United States that they are a brainwashed cult. They’ve done the same thing to our media institutions. That is the way they do it—it’s by controlling our own narratives.”

Falun Gong, he said, is “just a group of people that are dissidents of the Chinese communist regime.”

At its peak, before the CCP began persecuting the group, an estimated one out of every 13 people in China were practicing Falun Gong.

The Epoch Times reported in March, based on communications it obtained, that New York Times reporters Michael Rothfeld and Nicole Hong have been preparing a major hit piece against Shen Yun Performing Arts for six months.

The communications suggest the article will likely play into the hands of the CCP in its transnational repression campaign against Falun Gong.

“The New York Times is laser-focused on attacking us and are building a story around very questionable interviews,” Ying Chen, a vice president of Shen Yun, told The Epoch Times.

A March report by the Falun Dafa Information Center found that The New York Times has ignored and downplayed the CCP’s human rights abuses against Falun Gong. The report concluded that this likely cost lives as a result of propping up the regime’s dehumanizing propaganda and skewing policy debate.

The New York Times Reports Revenue Fell Slightly During 4th Quarter
The New York Times building in New York on Feb. 7, 2024. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

“Not only are the victims’ plights typically treated with silence and indifference, but even more damaging—when they are reported—articles are riddled with misrepresentations, inaccuracies, and outright hostility, displaying a shocking degree of unprofessionalism and bias,” the March 21 report reads.

Chicago Incident

In a separate incident on March 11, a Chinese-speaking U.S. customs official allegedly made discriminatory statements against Shen Yun performers who had just returned from a tour in Europe and were set to perform in Rosemont, Illinois.

According to Teresa Du, a tour manager with the group, customs officer David Ho spoke Chinese with a mainland accent, giving Ms. Du the impression that he was born in China. To fellow customs officers, he described Ms. Du, a U.S. natural-born citizen and native of Texas, as “illegal,” based on her religious beliefs, she said.

NTD Photo
U.S. customs officer David Ho at Chicago O’Hare International Airport. (The Epoch Times)

“They’re Falun Gong. They’re political. They’re illegal,” the customs officer told his nearby coworkers, referring to Ms. Du and her fellow artists, Ms. Du told The Epoch Times. He repeated that multiple times, creating a hostile atmosphere, she said.

A Customs and Border Protection spokesperson told The Epoch Times that the agency specifically prohibits the profiling of travelers based on their religion or spiritual beliefs. The Epoch Times has learned that the incident remains under investigation.

Responding to a question about the Chicago incident, Rep. James Comer (R-Ky.) said he was “very concerned.”

“We’re concerned that they have a foot in our military, they have a foot in the Pentagon, they have a foothold in our intelligence community,” he told The Epoch Times’ sister outlet NTD shortly before hosting the April 17 hearing.

“Every agency is at risk.”

The House Oversight Committee, which Mr. Comer chairs, began probing such Chinese influence within branches of the U.S. government weeks earlier.

What the investigation revealed so far, he said, is that “very few agencies even recognize that China’s a problem.”

When asked about Mr. Comer’s statements, a CBP official told The Epoch Times, “We have nothing further at this time.”

NTD Photo
Shen Yun’s tour buses have long been targeted for sabotage. Threats have recently escalated against the performing arts company that portrays “China before communism.” (The Epoch Times)

Not by the Rules

The targeting of Shen Yun is a reminder for the United States to be on alert, according to Scott Erickson, former acting chief of staff at the Department of Homeland Security.

The CCP, he said, is “smart enough” to spot and exploit U.S. vulnerabilities, and “they’re certainly going to do that when they see any sort of openings,” he told NTD in early April.

“They run a pretty extensive misinformation campaign, disinformation campaign, to try to lay the groundwork for defining their opponents before their opponents can define them,” he said.

The work can be subtle—such as getting its narratives “absorbed into the minds” of those working for the government.

“You have to be cognizant of the fact that they’re going to take every measure at their disposal to advance their cause, and they’re not going to play by the rules to do that,” he said.

NTD reporter Steve Lance contributed to this report.

From The Epoch Times

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