The Sydney Dance Company is in Shanghai, minus one dancer. Chinese-born Australian Xue-Jun
Wang, one of the Company’s longest-serving members, and part of the troupe collaborating with the
Shanghai Song and Dance Ensemble to produce a full-length dance work on the legend of Mulan, has been deported for allegedly carrying banned books into the communist state.

So what was an enormous coup for the SDC – the production marks the first time
a foreign choreographer has
collaborated with a Chinese ensemble – has quickly transformed from a PR dream
into a diplomatic headache.

It’s the biggest upset between Australia
and China “since the defection of Chinese diplomat Chen Yonglin and his
family in June,” says Jonathan Porter in The Oz. It will be interesting to see if the Australian government comments on the latest incident.

SDC artistic
director Graeme Murphy tried to intervene, says The SMH,
standing in between Wang
and the police, but it was hopeless. All he could do was accompany Wang
as police escorted him to his Shanghai hotel, where his bags were
searched. He was then driven to the airport and put on a China Eastern
flight back
to Sydney, “still in shorts and a T-shirt.” Wang arrived home yesterday.

A DFAT statement said that Wang “was alleged to have Falun Gong material in his
possession.” And as DFAT’s travel advice explains:
“Falun Gong activities are banned in China. Participants in Falun Gong
activities or Falun Gong related demonstrations contravene Chinese laws
and can expect to be dealt with according to those laws. Penalties
include detention, deportation, arrest and imprisonment.”

But in fact, corrects Wang, who has been a Falun Gong practitioner for
ten years, “I was carrying a Chinese translation of Nine Commentaries,
which is by the newspaper The Epoch Times.” Last week, he says, “I had a chat with a Shanghainese man about the
Communist Party and showed him a copy of the book. I think I showed it
to the wrong person.”
The Epoch Times, which publishes several editions throughout
the world, is a strident critic of communist China and has been linked
to Falun Gong, notes Porter.

“For a professional artist to be taken so abruptly without
consultation with the company is of great concern to the safety
of citizens travelling in China,” Falun Gong spokesperson, Kay Rubacek
told Crikey this morning. “It raises the question of
the level of monitoring of private citizens heading to China.” Their
beliefs, “even personal belongings” are under the microscope.

Crikey was unable to get hold of
Wang and the Sydney Dance Company this morning for comment.

Peter Fray

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