Wang Fang Criticized for Mariupol Performance

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“It was a shocking display,” she said. “This kind of stunt puts China in a difficult spot and tarnishes its so-called neutral image and its support of sovereignty.”

Mariupol’s Academic Regional Drama Theater was destroyed in 2022 in the midst of the weekslong Russian siege of the city. Hundreds of people had taken shelter in the theater during the siege, and before the attack, the word “children” had been written as a warning in large white letters on the ground outside. Estimates of the death toll in the theater attack vary widely, from at least a dozen to hundreds.

After her performance, Ms. Wang and the other Chinese visitors met with Denis Pushilin, the head of the self-declared separatist Donetsk People’s Republic, Mr. Pushilin said in a post on the messaging app Telegram. He praised Ms. Wang’s performance and said the theater was “being restored by St. Petersburg.”

The group also met with the top Russian-installed official in Crimea, Sergei Aksyonov, who said in a Telegram post that they had discussed “cooperation in the field of tourism.” Mr. Aksyonov quoted Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin, saying, “China is a brotherly state to Russia.”

Ms. Wang has not commented on the episode. But her husband, Zhou Xiaoping, a prominent nationalist writer who was in Moscow, defended her. In a post that was later deleted, he described Ms. Wang as a “Chinese folk singer without any political identity” and said that she had been pushing for peace.

“I personally applaud my wife for her strength, bravery and determination,” he wrote.

Mr. Zhou, a member of a political advisory group to the Chinese government who has been praised by China’s top leader, Xi Jinping, for exhibiting “positive energy” in his writings, many of which are critical of the United States, said he had not traveled to Mariupol to “avoid unnecessary disputes.”

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