Dance troupe alleges Chinese interference in Alberta visit
A traditional Chinese dance troupe scheduled to perform in Calgary says it is being snubbed by tourism agencies in Alberta after pressure from the Chinese consulate.
The Divine Performing Arts Chinese Spectacular, based in New York, is made up of expatriate Chinese performers whose touring show includes a live orchestra and dramatizations of Chinese legends. Their performances also touch on human rights issues and religious freedoms.
Caylen Ford, a spokeswoman for New Tang Dynasty Television, a non-profit Chinese language station affiliated with the troupe, said Wednesday the Chinese government is opposed to the show because it also portrays the regime's alleged persecution of followers of the spiritual movement Falun Gong.
Ford said the performers were supposed to be "white-hatted" by the City of Calgary — white hats are a traditional gift to visiting dignitaries — and treated to a trip to Banff with the support of Travel Alberta. Both events have been cancelled, Ford said.
"Travel Alberta and Tourism Calgary were going to support the show as sponsors and we received notice just a couple of weeks ago that they were contacted by the Chinese consul general and apparently threatened that if they supported the show, it would damage their business relations with China," she said.
Calls by CBC News to the consulate and to Tourism Calgary were not returned Wednesday.
In an e-mail obtained by the Canadian Press, a Travel Alberta official said the government agency was forced to cancel plans to help the group after it was contacted by the Chinese consulate in Calgary.
In another e-mail, Tourism Calgary said it must withdraw support of an opening reception for the group April 30, and cancelled the ceremony where the performers were to be given white cowboy hats and made honorary citizens of Calgary.
Travel Alberta withdrew from negotiations
Derek Coke-Kerr, managing director of Travel Alberta, called the situation an unfortunate mistake.
He said a junior Travel Alberta official started negotiating with the dance group about a possible sponsorship deal that would have exchanged ads on satellite TV in China for accommodation and transportation in Alberta.
I must stress there was absolutely no threat or no implied threat whatsoever.
But when they found out the broadcasts were not sanctioned by the Chinese government, Travel Alberta withdrew from the discussions, Coke-Kerr said.
"We are not allowed to sponsor events. The Chinese consul general called me and asked me for clarification for what our involvement was," he said.
"I must stress there was absolutely no threat or no implied threat whatsoever."
Leeshai Lemish, the show's Israeli-born master of ceremonies, said they've run into opposition from the Chinese government before during the group's five years of touring in North America.
"Basically wherever we've gone, either the consulate or the embassy, depending on what's in the city, would contact the media in the local cities, the government, the theatre and even ambassadors of other countries and warn them not to come to the show," he said.
The troupe plans to go ahead with three performances each in Calgary and Edmonton in April and May.
With files from the Canadian Press