BEIJING - A Chinese magician has sparked outrage from animal rights groups with a trick in which he gets goldfish to swim in sync, prompting China's state broadcaster to cancel an encore performance Thursday.
However, a separate regional broadcaster said magician Fu Yandong would perform the controversial trick again on Thursday night -- and reveal its secret so as to silence his critics.
Fu dazzled audiences two weeks ago with the trick and had planned a repeat performance Thursday on a Lunar New Year holiday show on China Central Television (CCTV).
A CCTV spokeswoman told AFP he would not perform on the show, declining to give further details.
Animal rights activists cried foul over the stunt, saying Fu had likely fed the fish magnets -- or implanted them in the fish -- so they could be dragged around their tank from underneath.
They said the trick amounted to animal cruelty.
Fu's agent Liang Ming also was quoted by the China Daily saying he would not perform the trick.
The CCTV gala marks the end of the Lantern Festival, which signifies the conclusion of China's roughly two-week Lunar New Year holiday, the nation's biggest and most important festival.
Fu had been billed as one of the highlights of the Lantern Festival show.
Hundreds of millions of viewers watched Fu perform the trick two weeks earlier on CCTV's Spring Festival Gala, China's most watched program of the year.
The trick -- which can be seen below -- involves six fish in a shallow tank on a covered table, who swim in formation at Fu's command.
Fu has so far refused to reveal the secret.
"My fish," he wrote on his microblog, are "living happily".
But his assurances have failed to quell the controversy.
In an open letter on Monday, 53 Chinese non-governmental organizations urged TV stations not to broadcast Fu's act in the future, and demanded the trick not be repeated during CCTV's Lantern Festival special.
The groups expressed fears the trick could lead to animals being tortured if viewers tried to copy it.
"Fu Yandong, based on the tradition of secrecy in the world of magic, refuses to reveal what lies under his trick. So the public remains unclear whether the fishes' safety is assured," the letter said.
But regional broadcaster Hunan Television, which has booked Fu to perform live for its own Lantern Festival special, said on its website Thursday he would perform the trick on the show and reveal the secret.
Image: Madeleine Ball / via Flickr