Goldfish act conjures up dirty tricks allegation

08:29, February 18, 2011      

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Goldfish swim in perfect unison, apparently following the command of magician Fu Yandong at the China Central Television New Year's Eve gala show in Beijing on Feb 2. Provided to China Daily

Six goldfish swam in two straight lines, turned left and right, and paraded in a glass tank as a magician blew a whistle to "command" them.

It had all the precision of a military drill. And it was a sensation, as expected, when China Central Television broadcast it live on Feb 2 as part of the Spring Festival gala show.

What was not expected, however, was that within days imitators of magician Fu Yandong posted their experiments with goldfish online. Public criticism surged as people speculated that these amateurs had mistreated the fish, with metal and magnets, instead of actually training them.

Animal protection groups fear that the "trick" endangers fish, and are demanding legislation to ban domestic animal abuse in China. On Monday, 53 groups issued a joint call to CCTV to drop similar acts on television shows.

CCTV agreed, and canceled Fu's scheduled appearance on Thursday night on its Lantern Festival show. However, Hunan Television booked a performance by Fu on its station.

The owner of the performing goldfish, Fu Yandong, is 35 and represents the fourth generation in a family of magicians. His father, Fu Tenglong, is considered the "King of Magic" in China.

The younger Fu would not reveal the secrets of his magic, but his agent, Liang Ming, said Fu's fish were not harmed and "are living happily".

"We've heard that some people tried to imitate our goldfish trick, but they did it the wrong way," Liang said. "Mr Fu just wants to tell those imitators to stop trying."

Song Dian, director in charge of Hunan TV's Lantern Festival show, declined to comment on Fu's performance on the Spring Festival show, but he promised: "In our show the act will be done only when it does not hurt the fish."

Song did not say how the safety of the fish would be secured.

By Li Jing, Hu Yongqi and Duan Yan in Beijing, China Daily
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