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VIPs again steering clear of Falun Gong-linked show
2008/11/18

The Divine Performing Arts show has stirred up controversy.


Invited guests are spurning a Chinese cultural performance in Auckland as organisers try to stop a repeat of last year's situation when not a single politician turned up.

Organisers are making phone calls and arranging "private meetings" in a bid to convince dignitaries to come to the Divine Performing Arts Chinese Spectacular - a concert touted as "showcasing the best of authentic traditional Chinese culture without communist culture".

Last year, all seven mayors in the Auckland region were invited. Some initially confirmed they would attend, but withdrew after the Chinese consulate pointed out the organisers were linked to the Falun Gong association, a banned spiritual movement in China.

"People are blindly bowing to the pressures of the ... Communist Party without understanding what is really happening," said spokesman Jay Zelaya.

But the offices of two mayors contacted by the Herald denied this.

A spokesman for North Shore Mayor Andrew Williams said the mayor's not accepting the invitation had "nothing to do with fear of offending the Chinese", but because he had concerns about being "ambushed" by Falun Gong.

He said invited guests in the past had casual remarks turned into political statements and had their photos used in newsletters and websites saying they "supported" Falun Gong objectives.

Manukau City Mayor Len Brown said the Chinese consulate had nothing to do with his decision not to attend.

A Chinese community leader who did not want to be named said Chinese found offensive the scenes in the show depicting the persecution of Falun Gong by the communist authorities.

But Mr Zelaya said the scenes were an "instrumental part" of the concert meant to "contrast Chinese society of yesterday ... and the China today".

The concert, to be held in Auckland from April 17, was banned in Denmark and Malaysia.

(New Zealand Herald, April 7, 2008)

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