China is aggressively blocking foreign athletes, musicians and actors from traveling to their country

It was not what the young tennis player Peng Shuai was expecting as she headed to the airport after a hard-fought run at the French Open. On the morning of June 18, the 20-year-old Chinese professional was en route from Roland Garros to Hong Kong. But her passport had not arrived. A few days later, three tennis players from South Korea were abruptly detained in Shanghai while traveling to Lausanne for the Halle Classic. When they showed up for a scheduled practice match against the Americans Madison Keys and Jennifer Brady, they were given a 15-minute haircut and then released.

China is blocking some travel by foreign athletes, musicians and actors as part of a crackdown on “cultural infiltration” of mainland Chinese culture by foreigners, Chinese officials and state media outlets have said, according to The Washington Post. As one judge put it, “red flags could be raised if a foreigner waltzes into the country and starts traveling around in other peoples’ countries.”

While Chinese cultural activities are still permitted, Chinese authorities are tightening control over foreign cultural events in their own country. Shanghai’s Municipal Tourism Administration, for example, has prohibited local media from displaying any films produced by major Hollywood studios in China, according to the South China Morning Post.

The French Open’s preparations for their opening match on Monday at Roland Garros were far less eventful. “There was not even the hint of political disturbance,” the tournament’s director Marc Tessier told reporters. “Just state bureaucracy, as is common for a new start.”

Mr. Tessier’s father, Jean-Luc Tessier, told the Post that in French nationals’ passports, it must be known by a national organization that the foreigner is performing a national service. Tourists who are visiting China but are not performing a service are exempt from that part of the law. It is unclear whether Mr. Tessier’s daughter has performed such service, or if the ruling was meant to explicitly bar her from entering China in the future.

Chinese officials have blamed foreign bands, musicians and filmmakers for inadvertently attracting negative coverage of China, using derogatory and offensive language. Some Chinese foreign cultural specialists, meanwhile, call the speculation that such a crackdown is part of a broader anti-foreigner movement, “nonsense.” “There is no political struggle against foreign musicians or people in China,” Leon Nochimura, director of the Okinawa Institute of Arts and Culture, told the Post. “China has one form of culture, and we are helping Americans to get inside Chinese culture. I don’t see anything wrong with it.”

It is not yet clear whether the ban applies to U.S. citizens. But Peng herself, in an article for East West Players, described her personal experience. “I’ve heard that any act or performance has to go through three levels of approval. The first checkpoint is usually the Court of Culture, but even that doesn’t guarantee approval. So after they’ve all agreed to approve, you have to go through one more level, the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs.”

Read the full story at The Washington Post.

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