The Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra has felt forced to drop a long-planned and much-anticipated tour to China next year, after it failed to get the official invitation it needed for its musicians and staffers to obtain visas. The lack of visas has been tied to China’s ongoing attempts to punish Norway and Norwegians after the Norwegian Nobel Committee awarded the Nobel Peace Prize to Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo two years ago.
Since then, Chinese authorities have failed to issue visas for a wide range of persons from authors and scholars to government officials and even former Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik. Last week China’s foreign ministry announced visa reform that allows waivers for stopovers of 72 hours or less in Beijing for residents of 45 countries, but Norway was excluded from the program.
“I’m so sorry about this,” Bernt Bauge, managing director of the Bergen Philharmonic told newspaper Bergens Tidende. The orchestra had planned to play four concerts in Dalian, Beijing, Shanghai and Tianjin in May. Instead, according to Bauge, “we never got the official Chinese invitation we needed (to obtain visas), and the uncertainty meant we didn’t get the financing we needed. We just had to throw in the towel.”