Maybe you've received a flier to see a show at Radio City Music Hall called Chinese New Year Splendor, which is promoted as a holiday celebration of China’s diverse cultural riches. But mixed within the traditional Mongolian dancing, orchestral music and Buddhist parables are dramatizations of the Chinese government’s oppression of Falun Gong, a qigong-based spiritual practice that is banned in China. And the show’s political content is prompting audiences to walk out by the hundreds.
The production, which costs between $58 to $280 per ticket, features a ballet in which three women are imprisoned by police, who kill one of them. Another number depicts Communist police officers bullying a mother and daughter carrying a banner with the Falun Gong message of “truthfulness, compassion and tolerance.”
At the show’s opening night, the Times spoke with several audience members who stormed out, claiming they felt deceived:“I don’t particularly like being accosted on the street by Falun Gong, and I don’t like it happening to me here,” said one. Another said his wife objected to the Falun Gong material; as for their three children,“It went right over their heads.” A Chinese immigrant visiting from Dallas walked out because she “didn’t like the torture stuff so much.”
The Chinese government, which does like the torture stuff, just not when it’s publicized, is predictably infuriated by the show, calling it “a sheer political tool used to spread cult and anti-China propaganda.” Falun Gong has gained a higher profile in recent years through dramatic public demonstrations calling attention to China’s brutal crackdown. Professor Maria Hsia Chang at the University of Nevada tells the Times she thinks the Radio City event “is kind of a P.R. front to try to normalize Falun Gong’s image, so that people don’t think of it as some kind of a wacko cult.” And they do this every year!
In 1999 the group’s founder, Li Hongzhi, told a Time magazine reporter that space aliens were corrupting mankind by teaching modern science. So it's pretty obvious what Chinese New Year Splendor really needs to keep the butts in seats: the invincible star power of Tom Cruise in the cast.