31st October 2013
Cultural Revolution Elements in Hong Kong Ballet’s Latest Performance was Ordered to be Deleted
The Dream of Red Chamber, a new performance by Hong Kong Ballet and Ballett Dortmund, is believed to be politically censored. The show is the inaugural performance of this year’s Hong Kong Dance Festival. Audiences found out that after the debut last Friday (25th October), an act about Cultural Revolution was heavily edited and partly cut out. The background footage about Cultural Revolution shown at the performance is now removed from the show.
The Dream of Red Chamber was Choreographed by Wang Xin Peng, Artistic Director of Ballett Dortmund. The performance was selected to be the inaugural performance of this year’s Hong Kong Dance Festival. At the first performance last Friday, Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, Chief Secretary, and Zhang Xiaoming, Director of Hong Kong Liaison Office, were among the audience. Kevin Ng, a commentator on dance performance, went to watch the first performance (on 25th October) and the third performance on Saturday (26th October), said that the 12 minutes long footage in act three of the show disappeared. The footage was about about Red Guards holding up Mao’s Red Book and conducting a struggle sessions targeting the right wingers.
During a press conference last night, Daisy Ho, Chairman of the Hong Kong Ballet Directors Board, and Hong Kong Ballet’s Artistic Director Madeleine Onne, said that Zhang Xiaoming met with the dancers and production team after the performance on 25th October, but he only expressed his appreciation and did not criticise anything about the show. Onne stressed that cutting out the footage was only an artistic decision because there was no subtitle in the footage. When asked if the change was made under political pressure, she did not give a direct response.
Source said that someone criticised the performance after the 25th October show as “politically incorrect” and demanded Ballet Dortmund to take out the 12 minutes long footage and change the stage image of the Red Guards in the show. Kevin Ng also said that he discussed the issue with Flora Zeta Cheong-Leen, the Chief Stylist of the show, she said “(we) want to have new elements in each performance”. Video Designer of the performance, Piotr Gregorowicz, said in an interview that after the first performance was completed, a short-hair Chinese woman who’s around 40 to 50 years old said to him that “this footage has to be deleted, I do not want to see it.”
It is not the first that arts and cultural activities are being performed with political agenda. However, this incident is far too blatant which shocks the people. Stephen Au Kam-tong, a famous Hong Kong stage and screen actor who is bold in making public comments on public affairs, said, “Although Hong Kong Ballet came to give reasons and said that deleting the footage and acts involving ‘Cultural Revolution’ is purely ‘artistic decision’, Hong Kong Ballet could still be suspected of ‘self censorship’. With the German video designer’s testimonial saying ‘a Chinese woman’ ordered to delete the footage, Hong Kong Ballet has a lot to explain.”
Au also said, “the official number of abnormal death was 20 million during Cultural Revolution, and the ten years long ‘Cultural Revolution’ has left a major scare in the history of China, something for people to be ashamed of. However, history is something we could all learn from. If one cannot face the past and learn from it, one does not deserve to face the modern world.”
“If Hong Kong is to die, it will be caused by the minions who only care about brown nosing their masters,” said Stephen Au. This in fact reminds Hong Kongers the speech given by Christopher Patten, our last governor, during his last policy address in 1996, “my anxiety is this: not that this community’s autonomy would be usurped by Peking, but that it could be given away bit by bit by some people in Hong Kong.”