A US-based dance troupe invited by the city's Falun Gong groups to perform in Hong Kong has cancelled its seven sell-out shows after the Immigration Department rejected the visa appeals of six members. The six people from Shen Yun Performing Arts, holding American, Canadian or Australian passports, had their employment visa applications turned down a week before the scheduled shows at the Lyric Theatre in Wan Chai from Wednesday. Hui Cheung Yee-han, a spokeswoman for the Hong Kong Association of Falun Dafa, a co-organiser of the shows, said the decision had been a big disappointment but the shows could not go on in the absence of 'key production personnel'. Hui said the six members included engineers for projection, audio and lighting, and three dancers, who also had production duties. The dance troupe had applied to the Immigration Department on Friday to reconsider their visa applications but was told the next day that there would not be any change, she said. 'The rejection totally caught us off guard because the concerned members are irreplaceable,' Hui said. 'I cannot help think that the Immigration Department has a hidden agenda.' The dance troupe said in a statement it regretted having to cancel the shows. It blamed the authorities' last-minute rejection of the visa applications even though the affected staff were core production members. It quoted the Immigration Department as saying that those production jobs could be filled locally. 'We regret that Hong Kong people have been denied the right to watch the performance of Shen Yun Performing Arts, which is a violation of their freedom,' it said. Hui said the decision to cancel the shows would cause massive losses as they had already booked the accommodation and air tickets for the troupe. They also had to refund more than 7,000 tickets, which cost between HK$200 and HK$900 each. The Immigration Department said it would not comment on individual cases.