Chinese opera singer Wang Fang has sparked outrage for performing the Soviet-era patriotic song “Katyusha” in a bombed-out theater in Mariupol, Ukraine, where hundreds of people were previously killed by the Russian army.
Criticism from Ukrainian officials: The 38-year-old opera singer, whose husband is a celebrated Chinese Communist Party (CCP) propagandist, visited the theater last week with a group of Chinese media and cultural figures. Fang was filmed singing “Katyusha” on a balcony in the venue, which immediately circulated online and led to criticism from Ukrainian officials.
“People died there, among them children,” Vadym Boychenko, the exiled mayor of Mariupol said in a statement, according to The New York Times. “To turn the theater into a tourist destination and to sing on the bones of the dead is incredible cynicism and disrespect for the memory of the dead civilians.”
Russian forces killed more than 600 civilians, mainly women and children, who found shelter inside the theater less than a month into Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The building was bombed in March 2022.
Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry response: Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry also called out Fang and said that her performance is “an example of complete moral degradation.”
In a Facebook post, Oleg Nikolenko, a spokesperson for the ministry, said that they are expecting “explanations of the purpose of Chinese citizens’ stay in Mariupol, as well as the path of their entry to the temporarily occupied Ukrainian city.” Nikolenko also announced that the ministry would ban Chinese “tourists” from the country.
Defending Fang: The opera singer’s husband, Zhou Xiaoping, defended his wife following the backlash, emphasizing her role as a “folk singer without any political identity.”
“I personally applaud my wife for her strength, bravery and determination,” he reportedly wrote.
China, which has sought to maintain a neutral image regarding the Russia-Ukraine conflict, is facing challenges in responding to the incident. The video of Fang and related content have reportedly been removed from the Chinese internet.