Inside the finances of Falun Gong

Access Archive

Dear Access member,

The U.S.-China trade war drags on, but there have been no significant developments today.

The best China read of the day is the story summarized below — on the political and religious organization Falun Gong, and its propaganda arm, the Shen Yun performance troupe.

As always, hit “reply” to send feedback.

—Jeremy Goldkorn, Editor-in-Chief

1. Inside the finances of Falun Gong

Jan van der Made at Radio France Internationale has done perhaps the most thorough investigation yet of the finances and structure of Shen Yun, the anti-CCP, Falun Gong–associated show that tours worldwide.

  • The show’s ticket sales so far in 2019 “could amount to $168 million,” given the $80 average price tag, 601 performances in 156 cities, and typical audiences numbering 3,500.

  • Between $10 million and $20 million per year is how much the organization takes in each year. Its net assets have grown from $3 million in 2008 to $95.7 million in 2017, according to tax documents.

  • About 55 percent of ticket revenue is spent on promotion, according to 2016–2017 documents.

  • It is not clear how much money from Shen Yun flows back to the organization’s headquarters in Cuddleback, New York. But its (non-taxed, nonprofit) facilities are rapidly expanding, to the chagrin of rural neighbors: A new complex will include “a 400,000+ liter/day waste water treatment plant, a 920-seat music hall, for the Shen Yun performing arts center, a residence hall with 30 rooms and a parking garage.”

  • Finally, RFI traced a patent that Shen Yun claims for digital screens used during performances, credited by the organization to a mysterious “D.F.,” to none other than “Hongzhi Li, Cuddleback, NY.” Lǐ Hóngzhì 李洪志 is the founder of Falun Gong and lives in exile in the U.S.

More on the Shen Yun show and its surreal mix of song and dance and anti-Beijing propaganda can be found in this recent New Yorker article: Stepping into the uncanny, unsettling world of Shen Yun.

—Lucas Niewenhuis

2. Now we wait — U.S.-China trade war drags on

As we noted yesterday, China noticeably dialed up its rhetoric on trade tensions with the U.S., going so far as to call the coming struggle a “people’s war” (人民战争 rénmín zhànzhēng.)

But not much has happened since then. These are the latest media reports:

—Jeremy Goldkorn


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—Jeremy Goldkorn, Editor-in-Chief


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