One of the participating bodies of a large-scale performance of communist “red songs” held earlier this week in Beijing has been accused by the concert’s chief organizers of being a fake organization. On its official website, the China National Opera and Dance Drama Theater announced Friday that it had fallen victim to a scam by an organization that claimed to belong to the country’s Central Publicity Department.
The concert, titled “In Fields of Hope,” was held on Monday at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, the same place where the yearly meetings of the country’s legislative body, the National People’s Congress, take place, and where the Communist Party’s National Congress is held.
The program featured an array of musical performances, a large portion of which were songs from the time of the Cultural Revolution, a decade of violent social upheaval that began exactly 50 years ago. One of the evening’s main acts was “56 Flowers,” a group of 56 young women known for its song and dance renditions of socialist numbers.
In its announcement dated Friday May 6, the China National Opera and Dance Drama Theater claimed that the “Socialist Core Values Publicity and Education Office of the Central Publicity Department” — listed in press releases regarding the concert — was a sham organization that had submitted fake certification and “robbed the trust” of the theater. The announcement did not speculate as to the motives the organization might have had in masquerading as an official body under the country’s publicity department, but said it planned to take legal action.
Friday also saw the release of a statement from the Beijing Xicheng Culture Committee, the local branch of the governmental organization responsible for ratifying cultural events. The announcement acknowledged that the committee had approved the event on April 7, but stated that the addition of the organization in question happened at a later stage without their consent. “We will take disciplinary action according to the law,” the announcement concluded.
Before the latest developments, the concert had already courted controversy earlier this week, with critics arguing that the inclusion of “red songs” and political rhetoric from the Cultural Revolution era was in poor taste. The backdrop to one performance reportedly featured the slogan, “The whole world must unite to defeat American invaders and their running dogs.”
Performers in front of a backdrop featuring the slogan: ‘The whole world must unite to defeat American invaders and their running dogs’ at the ‘In Fields of Hope’ concert at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, May 2, 2016. @PuBaoyi from Weibo
In a Global Times editorial published on the newspaper’s microblogging Weibo account Friday evening, Shan Renping — widely regarded to be the pen name of the state-run newspaper’s editor-in-chief Hu Xijin — referred to the country’s official rejection in 1981 of the Cultural Revolution as proof that a concert that appeared to glorify the sentiment of the time couldn’t possibly have had any governmental backing.
“Given that this year is the 50th anniversary of the beginning of the Cultural Anniversary,” wrote Shan, “it’s impossible that an official department would suddenly put on an event that might cause controversy.” The editorial goes on to speculate that the Great Hall of the People was rented out by a non-governmental organization for the performance.
An alleged photo of the guest list briefly circulated on Weibo that was reported to have been taken by a member of the audience featured big names like Li Na, daughter of Mao Zedong and his fourth wife Jiang Qing, among others.
With contributions from Kevin Schoenmakers and Yang Shenlai.
(Header image: A video screenshot shows performers in front of a portrait of Mao Zedong at the ‘In Fields of Hope’ concert at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, May 2, 2016. From ‘56 Flowers’ official video channel.)