Hampstead Theatre has vowed to “continue to champion freedom of expression”, after a whistleblower featured in its latest play accused Chinese officials of pressuring her family and friends in a bid to cancel the show.
The London theatre is preparing to stage The King of Hell’s Palace, which is inspired by the actions of Shuping Wang to “expose a cover-up of epic proportions” around a blood-selling scandal in Henan province, China, in the 1990s.
Wang, a former public health official, has now accused Chinese security officials of contacting her family and friends, telling them to persuade her to stop the production, which is due to open on September 12.
A statement from Hampstead Theatre said: “We felt that this important story of individual bravery and sacrifice, of championing of the truth in the face of official suppression, needed to be shared. The experience of live theatre is an essential gateway to reflection and open discourse on the most complex topics, and Hampstead Theatre will continue to champion freedom of expression, which is a vital element of healthy public debate and social understanding.”
Wang’s testimony in blew the whistle on the spread of HIV that occurred as a result of the blood-selling operation, which she first reported in 1992.
Speaking to the Observer, Wang said she felt “deeply sad” that her relatives had become targets of intimidation.
“The only thing harder than standing up to the government and their security police is not giving in to pressure from friends and relatives who are threatened with their livelihoods, all because you are speaking out,” she said.
Wang is now an American citizen, but claimed she had become aware of visits being made to people she knew in her home town last month.
“Their reason is that this play will embarrass and damage the Chinese government and the reputations of specific officials,” she added.
Wang’s experiences two decades ago have been dramatised by Frances Ya-Chu Cowhig, and the production is directed by Michael Boyd.
Boyd said he was concerned that the Chinese government “is not bothered” about allegations that it is pressuring Wang’s friends and family about the play, but said: “We will do what Shuping wants, and she really wants this play to go on.”