The Shen Yun dance troupe has performed all over the world, introducing traditional Chinese dance to Western audiences. On Wednesday, we welcomed them to Brussels.
The dance troupe represents the Falun Gong movement. Falun Gong something that I find difficult to describe — not quite a religion, or a philosophy, or a moral code, or an exercise régime like Tai Chi — yet rather like a combination of all four. But most of all it’s a gentle belief system, committed to Truthfulness, Compassion, and Forbearance. It is very much in the Eastern tradition of qigong.
Yet the Chinese Communist Party, unable to tolerate any organisation outside its control, has persecuted Faun Gong members (or “practitioners”, as they describe themselves) with extraordinary cruelty and injustice. They have disappeared, been arrested, been tortured and raped, and in many cases killed. Yet there are (it is claimed) as many as 100 million followers in China.
The Chinese government has also set out to put obstacles in the way of Falun Gong in the wider world — for example, putting pressure on Western governments to prevent cooperation with Shen Yun, and to deny them venues. Their 2010 tour went to a theatre in Leuven, in Belgium — out of town for the Bruxellois. But I took the train to Leuven and went to see the show, which was an amazing amalgam of sparkling cultural dance and discreet political advocacy.
This year they have an entirely new show, and have managed to book a venue in Brussels itself. I look forward to attending the show at the end of March, and I wish them well. Economic giant or not, China cannot be welcomed into the world community until it recognises the need to respect freedom of religion.