Falun Gong theatre in New York

The NYT has a rather funny article about New Yorkers who attended what they thought would be a traditional Chinese New Year theatrical spectacle at the Radio City Music Hall, but ended up seeing a very different kind of show.

Then the lyrics to some of the songs, sung in Chinese but translated into English in the program, began referring to “persecution” and “oppression.” Each time, almost at the moment a vocalist hit these words, a few audience members collected their belongings and trudged up an aisle toward the exit.

Before long came a ballet piece in which three women were imprisoned by a group of officers, and one was killed. At the end of the number, more members of the audience, in twos and fours and larger groups, began to walk out. At intermission, dozens of people, perhaps a few hundred, were leaving.

They had realized that the show was not simply a celebration of the Chinese New Year, but an outreach of Falun Gong, a spiritual practice of calisthenics and meditation that is banned in China. More than three years after flooding city corners and subway stations to spread the word about the Chinese government’s repression, Falun Gong practitioners are again trying to publicize their cause. Only this time, it involves costumed dancers and paying audiences in that most storied of New York concert halls, Radio City.

The article then goes on to mention that Faul Gong is well known for their elaborate street theatre protests around the city, in which they use props and stage makeup to dramatize the torture their compatriots are undergoing in China, as they hand out literature on the subject. Here are some photos I took of one such protest back in May of 2005.







Has anyone ever seen something like this anywhere besides New York? I saw Falun Gong protesters in Hong Kong, by Victoria Bay, and handing out flyers and DVDs outside of Taipei’s National Palace Museum (prime location to find tourists from the mainland) but never anything like this sort of dramatic reenactment.

17 thoughts on “Falun Gong theatre in New York”

  1. I too see them in Hong Kong last year, but in Causeway Bay right outside of Sogo, which is the busiest intersection in Hong Kong. Not much street theater but a lot of graphic photos and a woman speaking through a megaphone. This was the thing every Friday afternoon.

    A couple years ago I saw them in Philly by the Liberty Bell passing out newsletters and meditating.

    Their newspaper the Epoch Times is available in Rutgers New Brunswick. Sometimes there’s a guy passing them out but it’s in most of the newsstands every week.

  2. We get the Epoch Times in our University cafeteria in New Zealand. Public displays are generally restricted to people walking around shopping areas yelling stuff and holding signs. At the moment there is something of a minor scandal as city councils are restricting falun gong members from participating in local Chinese New Year celebrations. There were also earlier cases where local body politicians were “advised” by the Chinese embassies and consulates to stay away from FG theatre performances. New Zealand has recently agreed to negotiate an FTA with the PRC and many see the weak response of New Zealand’s mainstream politicians as the result of increasing links to regime.


  3. Falun Gong’s connection to these media outlets is not not a secret, but would you be suprised to find out our Congress maybe subsidizing Falun Going?

    In addition to receiving financial support from various Falun Dafa Associations, Falun Gong media, like NTDTV that’s putting on the agiprop theater, have also received funding from faction of US Congress that’s considered Blue Team China hawks.

    Most notably The Friends of Falun Gong, a quasi-government organization started by Congressman Tom Lanto’s wife, Annette Lantos, and operated by Ambassador Mark Palmer, one of the co-founders of NED:

    http://www.guidestar.org/FinDocuments/2001/134/145/2001-134145670-1-9.pdf (page 4, list of directors)

    FoF’s non-profit filings over the years show that millions were given to various Falun Gong media outlets:


  4. I recall seeing a Falun Gong poster set-up (no live exhibits) at a castle site in Osaka one day. Sadly, the resident Japanese bagpiper in full kilt regalia seemed to be drawing more attention than the crudely strung up posters.

  5. To my knowledge, these torture exhibitions are intended to convey to people the sense of urgency in not idly standing by while this disgraceful and horrific persecution of Falun Gong is taking place in China. The regime in China and its followers have gone to extraordinary lengths wasting billions of dollars worth of China’s resources in sustaining this persecution for over eight years and concealing it from the world outside of China.

    Falun Gong practitioners in New York and in cities of several other countries have freely volunteered their time for several hours a day, braving all sorts of weather conditions, to hold these torture exhibitions for the sake of raising awareness about the persecution and saving their Chinese brothers and sisters.

    Finally, here are a list of articles with interviews of people who read the NY Times article, saw the show in New York, and expressed positive views of the show.


    All the Best,

  6. Personally I’m all for the persecution of religion, but in the NZ case I remember reading one of the few more objective articles (that didn’t just go on about ‘religious freedom’ and ‘Chinese gummint tyranny’ and ‘are we letting the PRC take us up the rear?’) that told how FG didn’t just march in these Xmas parades etc but made political statements and used them as publicity-gathering opportunities.

  7. Actual people in makeup, who are very good at being still. I thought they were dummies until I got close.

  8. “I thought they were dummies until I got close.”

    Cynically, I could suggest that they were anyway….

  9. “…but made political statements and used them as publicity-gathering opportunities.”

    I’ve heard the opposite. If you have copies of these objective sources, I’d like to take a look. My impression is that the FG were told they could not spread their political message if they wanted to take part in Wellington’s Santa Parade. From the accounts that I have heard, including an interview with the Mayor of Wellington, they agreed to the terms and largely respected them.

    While I empathise with your views on religion, I think there is a larger issue here. This is obviously a group that the Chinese government does not like and there have been documented examples of PRC pressure on national and local body politicians to curtail the FG’s activities.


    While we may have our reservations about the kookiness of FG members, they should be treated like any other group in NZ society, provided they respect NZ law.

    In any case, I would imagine that many people in parades participate to gather publicity.

  10. My comments were about the Auckland rather than Wellington one, but I’ve done a quick check of the NZ Herald archives as well. Not sure how objective they are (I didn’t remember which section they were in), but after the search there’s an editorial here:
    that justifies denying them entry into the Auckland Santa Parade based on the controversy it would attract and compares them to the Scientologists in that respect.
    I suppose by “objective” I was referring more to “calm” than a purely dispassionate piece (which an editorial by definition is not, since it argues a stance, though one hopes it is more so than an op-ed) that wasn’t columnists and bloggers going on about freedom of speech etc.

    The official word from the city, near as I can determine, was: “the application was withdrawn on the grounds that the “organization does not ‘fit’ with the Santa Parade,” and would not, “turn children’s fantasies into reality, to delight families staging an annual fantasy Santa Parade to herald the start of the festive season in Auckland.””
    I have no idea what they mean by this, but it is perfectly reasonable to assume that a group with such infamy may well overshadow the “innocence” aspect of the parade. In other words, if FG is in, it’s a political statement (“we let anti-PRC groups in”). If they’re out, it’s also a political statement, but at least they’re out of the way….

    TV One on
    says “Michael Barnett says he will not allow Falun Gong to participate because the group can’t assure him they won’t hand out pamphlets.”

    From a letter quoted at
    is this suggestive statement: “Additional bands and performers were added along with new and better quality floats to provide greater emphasis on Christmas” Could it merely be the sight of so much “non-European” and non-Xmas imagery was bringing out plain old Eurocentricism (understandable when talking about a European holiday perhaps) and even a spot of racism?

    And there is always this argument, from a city councillor: “The other day I mentioned the issue regarding Falun Gong and the Santa Parade, and how I thought they should be allowed to participate if they agreed to keep politics out of the kids’ parade.
    In retrospect, I forgot one key point – can they play music?
    I heard snippets of the Falun Gong “Divine Land” band playing in protest as I walked across Aotea Square today. Frankly, they need some practice.”

    It’s actually hard to find anything truly objective: FG have a pretty hefty propaganda arm, so many articles I find through a Google search end up being written by their supporters. Short of that, there are just acerbic statements from various officials.

  11. Some of those articles about PRC pressure on Auckland mayors not to attend FG events look pretty shoddy, mind you. That is, the mayors and the PRC come off as looking bad (which may be the reporter’s intention of course). If true, it would certainly cause me, if I were a mayor of Auckland, to attend particularly.

  12. The presence of Falun Gong in downtown Toronto, in my estimation, is quite high. There seems to be a greater amount of demonstrations at the University of Toronto campus. The grannies handing out flyers can be seen frequently in the major intersections of Chinatown and in the business district.

    I’ve yet to see something as dramatic as those theatre protests in New York. But it’s not uncommon to see practitioners “performing” their meditation at their protests. I’ve also seen art exhibitions by Falun Gong in university campus buildings. The paintings were graphic and disturbing.

  13. Falun Gong maintains an impressive vigil outside of the Chinese consulate in Vancouver, on Granville Street, a busy commuter artery just outside of the downtown core.

    The entire facade outside of the consulate is covered with Falun Gong slogans. As well, there is a little booth manned 24 hours a day. Passersby can watch videotaped documentaries.

    As well, there are grisly photos of torture and death.

    Falun Gong (or Dafa) lodged a complaint with the city after it was prevented from marching in the Lunar New Year Parade.

    Not the most reputable bunch of folks.

    Here’s a link with YouTube video:


  14. Falun Dafa is really culturally aware. You guys need to check out my page if you wanna hear the music practitioners have made just to help people understand that Falun Gong has been horrendously persecuted in China. There’s rock, indie and hip hop music practitioners have made, that you’re welcome to check out. We’re a cultural people (“,)

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