Yesterday I received a mail from Xavier Froment, director of Théâtre de Trois Oranges, confirming what one of his colleague actors said to me about a month ago when I asked him about Xavier, who had not seen or heard from him in months (1):
I wanted to tell you that I've left China, and I won't go back anymore. After our play "East Palace, West Palace" in January, I had lots of troubles with Chinese police. In April they put me in jail because they said that I'm a danger for Chinese Republic. I was in jail from April until May 25th, and I was deported to France. I'm not allowed to go back to China anymore. So now I'm in Paris, and I will stay here. Next week I'm going to Austria for Salzburg Festival, and come back in September. Perhaps we will perform "East Palace, West Palace" in Paris. I'm looking for that in Paris.
Perhaps you will have the occasion to come to Paris, we can see again here!
The mail has left me in a kind of shock, I knew stories about imprisoned Chinese artists, but nothing about a foreign artist who I consider a friend. Since I met Xavier I followed his work because I was very interested by the fact that he was foreign stage director working in China with Chinese actors and wanted to make a professional career in the country. He loves China, and sought to live here, he learned the language very fast and started doing theatre in Chinese only after two years of living in Beijing. He never was a rebel artist, he did not want to bring down the dictatorial Chinese government, he simply staged what he liked and what he identified with as any other contemporary artist in the world.
The Chinese government hates free beings, it hates those who want to do what they want and say what they want, whether it is for or against China: "You must not take the initiative! You should not speak until I tell you! Show me your projects first and I'll tell you if they work or not, you are not capable of knowing what is good for China, I will tell you!"
I hate the Chinese government.
Xavier was imprisoned and reprimanded, scolded and punished for staging a homosexual-themed work, they called him a "danger to the Chinese Republic" ... And I wonder where the real danger lies.
I have expressed to Xavier my support. I know how much he was hurt by this expulsion and humiliation, by this abominable action. As a foreigner in China, and writing about what I see in Chinese performing arts I have played with the possibility of some retaliation by the Chinese government and at times I felt I was going too far. Today I know what they are capable of, today I know what I expose myself by keeping on writing my personal truth.
Xavier is an example of artistic freedom and courage, but also a living example of the existence of a power that is able to crush and humiliate, because that power makes the rules for everything. And this country will be the second power of a world without Cold war and it will influence on all sides by imposing ideas, actions at all costs to defend "the Republic of China."
Hide, ladies and gentlemen, that the big yellow ogre is opening its jaws!
(1) Have no idea why Xavier wrote this mail in English, even knowing I understand French.