Beyond the Dance: Real Persecution in China
Since leaving China and becoming a principal dancer with Shen Yun in New York in 2008, Steven Wang has played many roles on stages around the world: the tiger-defeating hero Wu Song, the noble and tragic Song Dynasty general Yue Fei, and the lead in many of Shen Yun’s enchanting and technically difficult ethnic dances.
But no role has held as much significance for him as the Falun Dafa practitioner facing persecution in modern day China. The young man is meditating in the park when he is suddenly surrounded by police under the orders of the Chinese Communist Party to wipe out Falun Dafa. He peacefully stands up for his faith, and is fatally struck down. But all is not lost as his soul is later greeted by the gods in a spectacular celestial scene.
For Mr. Wang and many other Shen Yun performers who practice Falun Dafa and have come from China, this is more than an artistic depiction on stage—it’s a look into a real human rights crisis that has defined their personal lives.
Falun Dafa, also known as Falun Gong, is a meditation discipline that includes gentle exercises and the guiding principles of truthfulness, compassion, and forbearance. But in 1999, the Chinese Communist Party, which feared Falun Dafa’s popularity, launched a persecution campaign against those who practice the discipline. The persecution continues today.
Every member of Mr. Wang’s family has been affected by it. His father was arrested for practicing Falun Dafa in 2000 and had his health destroyed by the torture he was subjected to, leading to his death in 2009. Mr. Wang’s sister, Shan Shan, was divorced by her husband because she practiced Falun Dafa and it endangered his government career. She fled to New York in 2012. Mr. Wang went to America himself since he could expect his promising career as a dancer to be crippled, if not violently ended, if he didn’t leave China.
And it hasn’t ended. Right now, Mr. Wang’s mother, Aihua Liu, is imprisoned in China solely because of practicing Falun Dafa. She is being held at the Second Detention Center of Shaoyang City, Hunan Province, after being arrested in August 2017.
While she faces sentencing, Mr. Wang has found himself in a new role offstage—trying to rescue his mother. He is appealing to the U.S. government to aid in protecting her. While touring with Shen Yun, he wrote in a letter to New York Senator Charles Schumer, “I appeal to you to take action and call my mother’s detention center to request her immediate release from illegitimate captivity and the issue of her passport so that she can reunite with my family in the United States.”
“I wish for her to experience the same freedom I am enjoying,” added Mr. Wang.
Falun Dafa practitioners’ lifestyle of meditation and mindfulness were hallmarks of traditional Chinese culture before the Chinese Communist Party seized power in 1949. Shen Yun Performing Arts was established by Falun Dafa practitioners in New York in 2006. The company’s mission is to use performing arts to revive the essence of Chinese culture.
Currently, Shen Yun performs in countries across five continents and has received worldwide acclaim, but is barred from performing in China.
“I wish that one day, Shen Yun will be allowed to perform in mainland China as well so that all Chinese people are able to learn about their history and traditional values,” Mr. Wang said. “It is totally different from what the Chinese Communist Party wants people to believe.”