New York Times, After Years of Appeasing CCP, Now Plans Attack On Dissidents In US


Authored by Petr Svab via The Epoch Times (emphasis ours),

The New York Times for nearly six months has been preparing a hit piece against Shen Yun Performing Arts, The Epoch Times has learned.

(Illustration by The Epoch Times, Samira Bouaou/The Epoch Times)

Communications obtained by The Epoch Times suggest the article, which is yet to be published, will play into the hands of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in its transnational repression campaign against Shen Yun.

The New York-based Shen Yun, whose mission is to revive traditional Chinese culture and whose slogan is “China Before Communism,” has been a major thorn in Beijing’s side for nearly two decades.

In its campaign, the CCP has used a plethora of tactics to obstruct Shen Yun—which each year performs for an audience of a million people globally—including attempting to pressure theaters to drop performances, persecuting artists’ family members back in China, and hijacking the U.S. legal system for its purposes.

The FBI last May arrested two suspected Chinese agents who had tried to bribe an FBI agent posing as an IRS official with tens of thousands of dollars in an attempt to revoke Shen Yun’s nonprofit status.

The Department of Justice indicated that the two alleged CCP agents had also sought to use an environmental lawsuit targeting the company’s training facilities and schools to “inhibit” their growth.

The next attack against Shen Yun, however, appears to be coming from America’s largest newspaper, The New York Times.

Two reporters, Michael Rothfeld and Nicole Hong—the latter of whom began to work on the Shen Yun story after spending six months at The New York Times’ China desk—have specifically sought out former artists who might have left the company years ago with a grudge, records obtained by The Epoch Times suggest.

Many of Shen Yun’s artists are practitioners of Falun Gong, a meditation practice whose followers are brutally persecuted by the CCP—making the company a prime target of the regime and its proxies. Some of Shen Yun’s dance pieces include artistic depictions of the persecution.

“We know these reporters are targeting for interviews [with] a tiny group that might have something bad to say about Shen Yun, and seem to be ignoring the overwhelming majority [of artists] who see their time at Shen Yun positively and deeply rewarding,”  Ying Chen, a vice president of Shen Yun, told The Epoch Times.

“Flowing Sleeves,” from the 2009 Shen Yun Performing Arts program. (2009 Shen Yun Performing Arts)

“We also know some of these interviewees have freely traveled to China, which raises a huge red flag because normally anyone who works for Shen Yun or is known to practice Falun Gong would be in grave danger going back to China—but these folks do so freely and repeatedly. We also have records of communication that demonstrate some of these interviewees were very happy with their experience at Shen Yun, but now are saying the opposite to The New York Times.

“All this indicates that The New York Times is laser-focused on attacking us, and are building a story around very questionable interviews.”

­­­­Out to Smear

Internal CCP documents show the Party considers the Shen Yun campus in upstate New York, called Dragon Springs, a “headquarters” of activities by Falun Gong practitioners to counter the persecution.

Attack the overseas Falun Gong headquarters and bases systematically and strategically,” reads one CCP directive document obtained by The Epoch Times.

Another document prescribes specific industries to co-opt in its transnational repression against Falun Gong, calling for mobilization of “China friendly people such as experts, scholars, journalists … who have greater influence in the U.S. and Western countries to speak for us, and strive to make more foreign media to publish more reports favorable to us.”

The New York Times now appears to be doing just that, commented Larry Liu, a deputy director of the Falun Dafa Information Center (FDIC), a nonprofit dedicated to monitoring the persecution of Falun Gong.

The New York Times published a section called “China Rules” in its Nov. 25, 2018, edition. The section included giant Chinese characters on a red background and a glowing report on the CCP, while simultaneously diminishing the United States. (Samira Bouaou/The Epoch Times)

“This article will likely be the CCP’s dream come true,” says Mr. Liu.

Not long after Ms. Hong returned to New York last year after a stint with The New York Times’ China team in Seoul, some former Shen Yun dancers started to receive emails from her and Mr. Rothfeld. The emailed questions were at times disturbingly specific and left the artists with the impression the reporters were trying to dig up information that could be weaponized against the company, Mr. Liu said.

One former dancer was only asked about one specific incident: a knee injury.

According to Mr. Liu, the reporters seem to be trying to craft a narrative suggesting that the dancers don’t receive sufficient medical care, a key false narrative pushed by the CCP to malign Falun Gong.

The Epoch Times spoke to dozens of Shen Yun artists and their family members as well as students and teachers at two schools affiliated with Shen Yun. They described the environment as demanding, but with a healthy culture and supportive community. The suggestion of lacking medical care or treatment prompted visceral responses.

It’s absolute rubbish,” said Kay Rubacek whose son and daughter perform with Shen Yun. Ms. Rubacek is a filmmaker whose portfolio includes award-winning documentaries and the program “Life & Times” on NTD.

“Everyone who watches the show, sees Shen Yun, they can see that these dancers love it. They really love what they do.”

Her children started attending Fei Tian Academy of the Arts, a grade 5–12 private art school, when they were 13 and 14. She was very particular about first getting familiar with the campus and the teachers, she said.

“I’m very careful with where I send my kids. I’m very protective of them,” she said. “So for me to feel comfortable for them to go to a boarding school, I have to check everything, and I checked everything.”

The dance track at the school gives students the possibility of auditioning for Shen Yun while training at the Fei Tian College on the same campus, which is what her children did–with great success, she noted.

She recalled that shortly after joining the school, her son hit his toe during dance practice. He was taken for an X-ray, which revealed a hairline fracture. His dance teacher insisted he couldn’t join dance class again until the fracture had fully healed.

He took the hiatus as an opportunity to focus on stretching, becoming one of the most flexible dancers in the troupe, she said.

The level of positivity that I see coming from them and their ability to face challenges is pretty remarkable and something that I wish I had as a kid,” Ms. Rubacek said.

She was appalled to learn that The New York Times would try to smear her children as being part of some opprobrious organization.

Shen Yun dancers rehearse a classical Chinese dance routine at their facility in Orange County, N.Y., in this file photo. (Courtesy of Shen Yun)

‘Real Danger’

“The false narratives that the Times seems to be pursuing are a grave concern for us because it can create real danger,” said George Xu, vice president of Dragon Springs.

He said several months ago local and federal authorities mobilized to counter what they believed was a credible threat posed by a Chinese man who posted to social media about wanting to be part of a “death squad.” The man also posted a video of himself loading an AR-15 rifle magazines.

The man “propagates these same false narratives and had been speaking with some of the same individuals the [New York] Times is interviewing,” Mr. Xu said.

“At one point, this man was known to be in the area of our campus. … We had state police patrolling our entrances, and everyone was on high alert. This is very serious.”

The Epoch Times obtained a copy of a September FBI Officer Safety bulleting, stating that the man “has made threats to the Dragon Springs campus,” was seen in the area, and “is potentially armed and dangerous.”

Aiming for the Top

Shen Yun prides itself as the leading Chinese classical dance company in the world, growing from one group in 2007 to eight, each with its own orchestra, touring the world and performing for more than a million people every year. The Epoch Times has been a long-time media sponsor of Shen Yun.

As with any elite artistic endeavor, classical Chinese dance requires enormous effort, said multiple dancers and teachers.

Alison Chen at the Fei Tian College campus in Middletown, N.Y., on Sept. 19, 2023. (Samira Bouaou/The Epoch Times)

“To become an artist of such a high caliber, it definitely takes a lot of grit and a lot of persistence, and you have to sacrifice a lot of time and energy,” said Alison Chen, who retired from Shen Yun in 2015 to become a dance teacher and later co-chair of the dance department at Fei Tian College’s campus in Middletown, New York.

She was still in her teens when she started training with Shen Yun in 2007, shortly after its inception. Thanks to her aptitude and previous dance experience, she was invited to join the touring company fairly quickly as part of her school practicum. Over the years, however, the company has continued to raise the bar. Fei Tian students are still allowed to audition for tours as part of their coursework, but their dance skills must be exceptional for them to make the cut, she said.

Compared to ballet, classical Chinese dance training is more aligned with the natural disposition of the human body, leading to less extreme strain, said Jimmy Cha, who was a professional ballet dancer before he joined Shen Yun in 2008.

Ballet dancers usually retire in their 30s and are often left with chronic pain and other ailments. On average, younger amateur dancers suffer one injury and older professional dancers 1.2 injuries for every 1,000 dance hours, according to a 2015 review of research on the topic.

According to those estimates, a professional dance company the size of Shen Yun would theoretically have hundreds of injuries occurring every year.

The dancers and teachers The Epoch Times spoke to didn’t have such statistics ready, but all agreed the injury incidence they observed in Shen Yun was a fraction of that number.

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