Chinese Celebrity’s Controversial Performance in Mariupol’s Ruined Theatre Sparks Diplomatic Tension
Chinese opera singer Wang Fan recently stirred a diplomatic controversy following her rendition of the Soviet war song “Katyusha” within the ruins of the Mariupol Drama Theater in Ukraine. This is a site where hundreds of lives were lost in the previous year, thereby exacerbating the sensitivity of her actions.
Wang Fan was accompanied by a group of Chinese bloggers who were visiting the occupied Ukrainian city. The song “Katyusha,” which was popularized during the era of World War II, is a call to the masses to protect and serve their homeland. However, the performance in such a context has been deemed as disrespectful and inappropriate considering the historical implications of the location.
The Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs accused this group of breaching the country’s borders. Oleg Nikolenko, the Ministry’s spokesperson, expressed his disapproval in a Facebook post saying, “The performance of the song ‘Katyusha’ by Chinese ‘opera singer’ Wang Fan on the ruins of the Mariupol Drama Theater, where the Russian army killed more than 600 innocent people, is an example of complete moral degradation.”
Nikolenko further added, “Their arrival is illegal. It grossly violates Ukrainian legislation regulating the crossing of the state border by foreigners.” The spokesperson insisted on an explanation from the Chinese side about the purpose of their citizens’ stay in Mariupol and the means of their entry into the city.
Vadym Boichenko, the Ukrainian Mayor of Mariupol, also criticized the visit. However, China has remained silent on the issue, and no comments have been made by Wang Fan either.
Wang’s husband, in a statement issued on the Chinese social media platform Weibo, applauded his wife’s “strength, bravery, and determination.” He wrote about the resilience of the ex-Ukrainian residents, Russian soldiers, and civilians who have been fighting against attacks by NATO mercenaries and the Ukrainian army. He claimed that the song had deeply inspired the locals, who vowed to continue their fight for peace and survival.
The Mariupol Drama Theater was bombed on March 16, 2022, while hundreds of people were seeking refuge inside. Mariupol City Council, who shared an image of the ruined building, claimed that Russian forces had “purposefully and cynically destroyed the Drama Theater in the heart of Mariupol.” Satellite images revealed that the word “children” was written out on two sides of the theater before the attack.
The performance of “Katyusha” amidst the ruins of the theater was captured in a video that has since surfaced online. Ukraine is now demanding an explanation from Beijing.
Petro Andryushchenko, an advisor to the exiled mayor of Mariupol, shared the video of the performance on his Telegram channel. He criticized the insensitivity of the act and called for a response from the Ukrainian Border Service and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs regarding the illegal entry of a Chinese citizen.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine is now planning to impose a ban on entry into Ukraine for the Chinese “tourists” who illegally visited Mariupol.
The Kyiv Post tried to gather more information about the opera singer Wang Fan. While there is a renowned opera diva with the same name in China who has published an autobiography, she is much older than the singer who performed in Mariupol. Attempts to reach the Chinese embassy in Ukraine for comments have so far been unsuccessful.
This incident serves as a potent reminder of the need for sensitivity and respect for historical contexts. As investigations continue, the world watches and waits for further developments in this controversy.