During the 2008 presidential election, Sen. Barack Obama voiced his concern over the human rights violations in China.
Many people hoped with his election that the problems in China would finally be addressed and the Chinese people would receive help.
However, it is now 2013 and the U.S. has prioritized other issues to address in eastern Asia.
This lack of attention did not stop Oxford College freshman Robert Lu from advocating his push for human rights in China.
Since 2008, Lu has been working with Shen Yun Performing Arts, a performing arts and entertainment company that focuses on reviving five 5,000 years of Chinese culture lost over time during the transition to the communist government in 1949.
Shen Yun is a world-renowned company famous for its dancing, music and mission.
During Lu’s time with Shen Yun, his troupe performed all over the world from Asia, Europe, Australia and North America, filling highly prestigious venues such as the Kennedy Center and Radio City Music Hall.
His journey began in the eighth grade when his parents took him to a Shen Yun show. He was instantly mesmerized by the show. He thought he could easily be a part of it, or so it seemed.
After watching his first show, Lu went backstage to audition for Shen Yun. He was rejected, but encouraged to try again.
Lu trained nonstop for the Shen Yun, losing 30 or so pounds in the process. Finally, on his fourth try, he made the cut.
Lu spent the next year refining his talents in Chinese classical dance at a private school in New York. Then, he was off to tour the world with Shen Yun.
Lu recalled his first time on stage was nerve-wracking.
“I was sweating bullets before the curtain even came up,” Lu said. “As time went on, it became routine, but everyshow was a new experience.”
As much as Lu enjoyed performing, he was also very passionate about the show’s cause. Shen Yun promotes freedom of speech.
Over the past few years, China has been criticized for its censorship and its shutting down of certain publications and websites working against the ideals of the Communist Party.
In fact, Shen Yun has been banned in China because the show’s performances do not entirely back the Communist Party of China, but rather, promote the traditional, pre-communist China.
Shen Yun has also been supported by Falun Gong, a spiritual group in China targeted by the Communist Party since its crackdown in 1999.
Members of the group have been subject to human rights abuses including torture, imprisonment in labor camps and psychiatric abuse from the Communist Party.
Falun Gong advocates for greater human rights in China and an end to the communist rule in China.
Many people outside of China do not know about Falun Gong, so it is up to groups like Shen Yun to create awareness of what is going on in China and bring to light the traditions of their country.
“We do not attack anyone,” Lu said. “We promote traditional Chinese history.”
Due to Lu’s affiliation with Shen Yun, he is not allowed to travel to China anymore. However, this does not upset him or his parents.
Rather, his parents are very proud of what he did, and they still encourage him to pursue advocating these issues.
Lu recalled how touched he was when an audience member told him how he traveled two days from China to watch the show.
“It was really touching seeing his reaction,” Lu said. “It brought tears to my eyes.”
Lu hopes that one day the Chinese people will be able to gain their rights and not fear the government.
“Right now, your family could get killed or denounced if you talk badly about the government,” Lu said. “It’s communism. No matter how bright it looks on the outside, at the heart of it, it is still communism.”
Although Lu retired from dancing professionally, he decided he would continue his advocacy of Chinese human rights by getting his business degree at Emory. Lu hopes to attend the Goizueta Business School in the near future and eventually work in international business.