(Minghui.org) When Shen Yun Global Company, a Shen Yun Performing Arts group, finished its tour in Europe and returned to the United States on March 11, 2024, a U.S. customs officer at Chicago O’Hare International Airport who spoke Chinese tried to deny them entry. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Department of State, and U.S. Congress members urged the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to investigate this incident and provide a report.

“I am gravely concerned about allegations of discrimination by a Customs agent against US citizens based on constitutionally protected religious beliefs. Worse, the alleged conduct was due to the agent’s apparent sympathies with the Chinese Communist Party,” wrote U.S. Representative Scott Perry in a letter to Customs and Border Protection on March 15. “I demand an immediate investigation into this incident.”

Chicago O’Hare International Airport

Incident at the Airport

Shen Yun Global Company, one of the eight Shen Yun Performing Arts groups completed its performances in Europe and returned Chicago on March 11 in preparation for performances in Rosemont near Chicago. But the Shen Yun artists were stopped by a customs officer at Chicago O’Hare International Airport.

According to tour manager Teresa Du, the officer, who spoke Chinese with a Mandarin accent, stopped Shen Yun artists from entering even though they had valid U.S. passports and visas. “They’re Falun Gong. They’re political. They’re illegal,” the customs officer told his nearby co-workers, referring to Ms. Du and her fellow artists. He repeated this multiple times, fomenting a hostile atmosphere.

The customs officer on duty at Counter 9 not only blocked the legal entry of Shen Yun Global Company’s cast and crew, but also went over to Counter 10 to interfere with other customs officers’ processing passengers. Near Counter 10, he asked Shen Yun performer Ryan Zhou, “Are your guys associated with the Falun Gong group?” and asked specific details about the Fei Tian school. Tommy Han, who was waiting in the queue behind Ryan Zhou at Counter 10, said that he heard a Chinese-speaking officer loudly say, “Oh, Falun Gong. These people are Falun Gong.”

After the group was delayed but passed through customs, two customs agents stopped them at the exit point, saying that they might not be able to let the group in as it “might be illegal” for them to enter the United States. The Chinese-speaking officer suggested to a supervisory agent to “call them all back.” The superior dismissed that as unnecessary and cleared the group after some brief questioning.

At the last exit after they collected their luggage, Shen Yun Company’s cast and crew were once again stopped by two customs officers. They used a legal term that the artists didn’t understand. According to Shen Yun artists, the officer from Counter 7 also walked to the baggage claim area and asked the company members more questions.

Ms. Du, a U.S. citizen born in Texas, was shocked by this experience, which brought her to tears. This incident also raised concerns in the U.S. Congress, Department of State, and Homeland Security. A staff member of a U.S. Senator said that Homeland Security and the CPB were investigating this incident. A senior Homeland Security officer said she forwarded this case to a senior CBP officer. Staff members of Congressional representatives from both parties said they wrote to the CBP, asking that the incident be investigated. They indicated that, if the incident was confirmed, the customs officers involved should be terminated. The U.S. Department of State also requested the names and flight numbers of the Shen Yun Performing Arts artists affected for further investigation.

Congress Member Calls for Investigation

Letter from U.S. Representative Scott Perry to Customs and Border Protection

In his March 15 letter to Troy Miller, Senior Official Performing the Duties of the Commissioner for CBP, Perry requested an immediate investigation into the incident. “If the allegations are founded, termination of said agent must occur promptly,” he wrote.

“Espousing Chinese Communist Party propaganda, and coercion and intimidation as an official U.S. government action—that’s exceptional,” remarked Perry in an interview with NTD Television. “This is an American citizen, espousing their First Amendment rights, coming back home to America, and essentially being intimidated by the federal government. That’s a whole different level.”

Mr. Perry has been alarmed by evidence of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) infiltrating America, including reports of several Chinese police stations operating on U.S. soil. “You’ve got to wonder, who’s watching the watchmen?“ he said, referring to the customs officer. “Is this officer working to assert Chinese policy through his official U.S. government position?” He said an immediate investigation is critical, at the very least, to protect all U.S. citizens’ First Amendment rights.

Responses from Members of Congress

During interviews with NTD, several members of Congress urged the U.S. government to investigate this matter. Representative Brian Babin from Texas said it was “totally inexcusable for this to happen in the United States at the hands of an American official.”

U.S. Representative Brian Babin from Texas

“There should be a thorough investigation, and if it proves to be accurate, the customs official should be terminated immediately,” Babin said. “We should never allow the PRC [People’s Republic of China]—one of the most repressive countries on the planet—to have influence over our federal government.”

U.S. Representative Don Bacon from Nebraska

Don Bacon, U.S. Representative from Nebraska, hopes the incident “gets investigated.” “A law enforcement-type official at the airport harassing an American citizen—we have freedom of religion here, and we should protect that,” he said. “There should be some disciplinary action taken [for such behavior].”

U.S. Representative Russ Fulcher from Idaho

Russ Fulcher, a U.S. Representative from Idaho, recently saw a Shen Yun performance. He described it as “fabulous,” exemplifying “an artistry combining history with art” that “doesn’t necessarily align with the current Chinese government and the current Chinese direction.”

He was disturbed by the recent incident in Chicago. “There’s so many concerns about this,” he said, “because why were they targeted?” “To see that they have been interrupted, you have to ask the question as to why, what’s the motivation behind that?” he added.

U.S. Representative: Investigating Connection with the CCP

Rep. Michelle Steel wrote to CBP to urge further investigation of the incident.

U.S. Representative Michelle Steel from California wrote to CBP on March 20, urging the agency to fully investigate this matter. “I write today to express my concern regarding alarming events that recently took place at Chicago O’Hare International Airport. On March 11, 2024, a Chinese-speaking customs official accosted Shen Yun artists for their religious beliefs as they entered customs at Chicago O’Hare, traumatizing members of the troupe and causing unnecessary delays. The inappropriate questioning and accusations made by the customs official echoed Chinese Communist Party propaganda used to disparage the group,” Rep. Steel wrote.

“Shen Yun is a show that captures and revives traditional Chinese culture. The performance is rooted in spirituality, and influenced by Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism. Many Shen Yun artists practice Falun Gong, a religious movement subjected to severe CCP persecution,” the letter continued. “In response, I ask Customs & Border Protection to fully investigate this instance for any connection to the Chinese Communist Party. Religious profiling by an American government official is inexcusable, and failure to hold this individual accountable risks further discriminatory behavior.”

Failed Attempts by the CCP to Interfere with Shen Yun

Shen Yun Performing Arts was founded in New York in 2006 by Chinese artists who fled communist persecution. Since it began touring in 2007, Shen Yun Performing Arts has been interfered with by the CCP almost every year. This has included contacting the theaters hosting Shen Yun performances to slander Shen Yun Performing Arts and unreasonably insist that the theaters cancel their lease contracts, citing “a negative impact” on political and economic relations between the U.S. and China. In addition, CCP agents wrote letters to keep Western officials from going to see Shen Yun. Their agents have also slashed the tires of cars and buses that transport Shen Yun artists on their tours in an attempt to cause accidents. And Chinese consulates instill CCP lies, hatred, and fear into Chinese students studying abroad, discouraging them from applying for exams to participate in Shen Yun, and so on.

Despite the CCP’s underhanded tactics, the regime cannot stop the development, growth, and success of Shen Yun Performing Arts. Today, Shen Yun has grown from one company to eight, touring around the world every year. Shen Yun’s 2024 season saw three companies touring Europe at the same time, but it was still difficult to meet the demands of European audiences. The tickets in many cities were sold out before the performers arrived. Audiences members from all walks of life have expressed their admiration for Shen Yun. Shen Yun’s reputation has skyrocketed, and seeing the show has become the thing to do in mainstream Western society.

At the fourth and final Shen Yun performance this season at the Leipzig Opera House in Germany on March 10, the artists took three curtain calls, and many in the audience gave them a standing ovation. (The Epoch Times)

The first round of Shen Yun performances of this season took place in Paris between February 27 and March 2. There were seven performances in five days, and the venues were sold out. The photo shows audience members warmly applauding Shen Yun artists at the end of the afternoon performance on March 2. (The Epoch Times)