The Politics of Chinese Cooking
This story is about a strange moment where the two disparate worlds of Chinese Communist Party politics and cooking collide. The New York Times ran the headline "A Chinese Cooking Contest, Without Any Chefs from China." The story was about how the Chinese government had denied visas to eleven chefs scheduled to compete in a cooking competition taking place in Times Square today and tomorrow. What the reporter neglected to mention was that the competition is being produced by New Tang Dynasty Television which was founded by Falun Gong followers and according to the Wall Street Journal serves as a "platform for China's pro-democracy dissidents." So, it's no big surprise that the Chinese government did not want to cooperate. Freedom of expression is still a relative concept there.
You may not know what Falun Gong is but you've seen them before if you've ever been to the Chinese Consulate on 42nd Street. The protesters who've set up a permanent vigil across the street are followers of the religion. The Chinese government says that the Falun Gong is an "evil cult" but they're not happy with it, to say the least, because it's an organized religion that actively criticizes the government.
The Wall Street Journal ran an extensive piece on New Tang Dynasty Television in 2007. If you want to know more, the article is here.
The big losers in this situation are the American fans. It would've been fascinating to see how the mainland Chinese chefs stack up against the expat chefs living in North America, especially since some claim that Vancouver's Chinese food is the best in the world.