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Monday, June 11, 2007

Beijing Interfering with New York Dance Competition, Says Former Diplomat

Ex-diplomat alleges Chinese consulate using student groups as front organizations in America

Epoch Times: The long arm of the Chinese Communist Party is being felt at New York University this week after a student club, allegedly under instructions from Beijing, attempted to have a Chinese dance competition shut down.

When New Tang Dynasty Television announced that its global Chinese dance competition—a showcase of traditional dance with participants from around the world—would be held at New York University in July, the NYU Chinese Culture Club should have be thrilled.

Instead, the club posted a letter on its website blasting the competition and its organizers.

Former Chinese diplomat Chen Yonglin says the club was acting under directions from the Chinese Communist Party, which has a history of harassing the independent, Chinese-language television station.

"The NYUCCC's public letter is about the same as a document issued by the Ministry of Propaganda of the Chinese Communist Party," says Chen, who defected from his position as First Consul at the Chinese Consulate in Sydney two years ago.

Chen was in Canada this week speaking to legislators and media about the threat of Chinese espionage. He says that an extensive network of front organizations is used by the Communist Party to push its agenda abroad, including university student clubs.

Chen Yonglin speaks at a press conference at Ottawa's Parliament Hill. (Matthew Hildebrand/The Epoch Times)
Chen Yonglin speaks at a press conference at Ottawa's Parliament Hill. (Matthew Hildebrand/The Epoch Times)

"Such groups are in fact controlled by the Chinese mission and are an extension of the Chinese communist regime overseas," said Chen, explaining that they are supposed to co-operate with Chinese consulate and embassies to suppress organization and individuals not in favour of the CCP.

"Often, it is not convenient for the Chinese mission to do certain things. So to use student organizations, with a neutral name, is more effective."

Chen explained that there are several ways in which the CCP manipulates overseas Chinese student organizations, including providing funding for club activities, writing reference letters and providing scholarships to Chinese students who dutifully toe the party line, and co-opting Chinese students by giving them free gifts, such as tickets to entertainment events. Failure to comply can result in threats to a Chinese student's career opportunities.

NTDTV's spokesperson Carrie Hung also believes the NYU Chinese Culture Club has acted under orders from the Chinese consulate.

"This is not news to us. Ever since New Tang Dynasty TV was established, the CCP has tried to interfere with our business."

Leaked documents from the Chinese regime have included directives to use front organizations to lobby against NTDTV, interfere with its annual Chinese New Year show, and pressure cable and satellite carriers against airing its programs.

NTDTV's Canadian office has been vandalized repeatedly, quarantined on multiple occasions after being sent packages of white powder, and employees tires have been slashed. The station suspects the Chinese regime has been behind the attacks.

Huang explains the network has drawn the ire of Beijing because it is the only Chinese-language television network that broadcasts uncensored into the Chinese mainland, including news programs critical of the regime. It has been particularly vocal in revealing the CCP's persecution of the Falun Gong spiritual discipline, the suppression of democracy activists, and other human rights abuses.

Chen believes this is the reason the television station's activities have been targeted.

He says there are several ways the Chinese authorities have attempted to interfere with NTDTV's activities. One of them is to pressure the venue not to allow the activity to be held, which is precisely what the NYU Chinese Culture Club is attempted to have done.

According to NTDTV's website, its international classical Chinese dance competition is intended to "launch a new era in Chinese dance by inspiring the creation of dance pieces, fostering cultural exchange, and promoting traditional dance of pure authenticity, pure goodness, and pure beauty."

Chen said that he has seen NTDTV'S Chinese New Year Spectacular, a show that in 2007 has been acclaimed in more than 30 cities around the world. "The culture it presents is like a breath of fresh air."

"It is ridiculous that a dance competition is denigrated to such an extent," says Chen.

But Chen added that such statements as that made by the Chinese Cultural Club represents only a small number of Chinese students and scholars of the university and that they do not represent the views of the majority of Chinese students.

NTDTV's Carrie Hung says audiences should judge the event for themselves.

"What NTDTV has done is to bring Chinese dance to the world stage, which should be applauded and supported," said Huang.

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