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Chinese Vegan Rock Musician Denied Visa by Germany

Chinese vegan rocker Xie Zheng was invited to play and speak at the International Vegetarian Union’s World Vegetarian Congress, which begins in Dresden today. Xie is also an officer of the Chinese Vegetarian Union and founder of the vegan advocacy group "Don’t Eat Friends." He was to be the only Chinese delegate at the World Congress.

Unfortunately, the German embassy in Beijing denied him a visa. Vegan Social Club (in Beijing) co-founder Chris Barden immediately implemented a letter-writing campaign to German Ambassador Dr. Michael Schaefer to reconsider, but alas, Schaefer chose not to change his decision (use the "kontakt per e-mail" button if you wish to send a message).

In his blog, Chris writes:

[H]ow often do idealistic young Chinese vegetarians get invited to Dresden by hundred-year-old European institutions to meet “the world”, play music and exchange ideas on peace? How often do Chinese individuals get portrayed positively in the European press? How often do European media have the chance to report positive, accurate stories about progressive areas like vegetarianism, non-violence and animal advocacy in China?

Let me make a wild guess: Not as often as a sort of faceless, impersonal “China” gets portrayed negatively and (almost always) inaccurately for a very narrow range of stereotypical “bad news” items.

And yet, when a real live Chinese idealist of impeccable ethics is invited by a venerable, century-old European institution, you’re not interested in enabling the world to hear that “good news” story.

As we here in the US know very well, there is never a shortage of stories about China (though I wouldn’t say Chinese individuals) regarding human rights, animal rights or the environment, that make boycotting China a fairly easy decision for most people.

However, just as we talk about the importance of individual animals, we should acknowledge that the individuals in China, such as Scarlett Zhang, founder of Beijing Cat, who rescues and rehomes stray cats in Beijing, don’t all represent the policies of the government and don’t all have the wonton disregard for animal life that our news stories about China (particularly from animal advocacy organizations) depict.

I don’t understand why Xie Zheng was denied a visa, and I’m going to write to the ambassador and simply ask him about his decision-making process. I’ll let you know if I get a reply.

And now for the $64,000 question, the answer to which might be that it’s some kind of inside joke, but: What’s with the superheroes?


2 Comments Post a comment
  1. Thanks for posting this, Mary.

    Like many people who've spent some time in China, I'm anxious to let the world know how many truly compassionate, creative, effective, animal-friendly people there are here.

    But the information flow between China and everywhere else is clogged enough already, such that many of these voices aren't ever heard, thus creating fertile soil for the continued sales of inaccurate stereotypes in the Western media — which get recklessly amplified.

    The World Congress in Dresden seemed like a dream-come-true for vegans in China to build important lines of communication.

    Xie Zheng is a bit like Johnny Appleseed. Instead of planting apple trees, Xie travels around the country — with his band Giant Beanstalk — and does consciousness-raising concerts about veganism and animal protection issues. Importantly, Xie and his band convey to young people that compassion is hip, and that it's cool to give a damn about animals.
    He is as much an educator as a musician.

    The German Embassy's decision is baffling.

    Also, Xie was impeccably honest in his application for his visa. He didn't overstate his financial status or lie about his position. He assumed — as did many of us — that it shouldn't be too hard to get a visa when a well-known figure in a highly respected community here gets invited to a big globally significant event by a venerable institution with a hundred years of history.

    In our appeal last week, I sent the Embassy a faxed letter (which they received and acknowledged) that not only have supporting letters from Jill Robinson and Jonathan Balcombe, but clarified the importance of Xie's attendance at this event for both China and the world, and spelled it out clearly that in rejecting his visa, they were essentially shutting out China itself from the Congress.

    I wonder how often invitations from IVU World Congresses have been used as springboards for illegal immigration?

    I'm sure if it happened, the New York Times would be the first to report on it, like they do with any other negative thing a vegan commits anywhere else on the planet. (The headline might be: "Vegan Overstays Visa: Scientists Say Cruelty-Free Diet Possibly to Blame for Lapse of Lawfulness.")

    July 28, 2008
  2. That is so strange. They refuse even musicians.

    June 20, 2010

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