Taiwan President Defends Director After China Pulls Plug on Awards Footage

taiwan-film.jpg Taiwan director Fu Yue (R), who sparked controversy with her Golden Horse best documentary acceptance speech calling for Taiwan to be regarded as an "independent entity," Nov. 17, 2018.

Chinese government censors recently issued an edict to state-run media outlets to pull the plug on all live coverage and livestreaming of Taiwan’s Golden Horse Awards ceremony, after a winning director voiced her desire to see the democratic island become “an independent entity.”

“All websites are to cease livestreams and live broadcasts following the remarks on Taiwan independence at the Golden Horse Awards ceremony,” the country’s powerful propaganda department said in a Nov. 17 directive to editors leaked and published by the China Digital Times website.

The order came after director Fu Yue, who won the award for best documentary for a film about Taiwan's 2014 Sunflower student protest movement, said during her acceptance speech in Taipei that her biggest hope was for "our country" to be regarded as an "independent entity."

Taiwan has been ruled separately from China since the KMT nationalist government fled there in 1949 after losing a civil war on the mainland to Mao Zedong's communists, who have never ruled the island.

Recent polls show that the majority of Taiwan's 23 million population identify as Taiwanese rather than Chinese, and that there is broad popular support for continued self-rule. But Beijing has threatened to invade, should the island seek formal nationhood.

Taiwan president Tsai Ing-wen said via Facebook that her administration had never accepted Beijing's insistence that Taiwan is an inalienable part of China.

"We have never accepted the term 'Chinese Taiwan,'" Tsai said in a Facebook post on Sunday. "Taiwan is just Taiwan."

She said Taiwan's annual Golden Horse Awards are emblematic of the freedoms that make the island different from mainland China.

"Nobody here will disappear or be silenced for expressing differing viewpoints," she wrote, "and we also don't have sensitive terms that are censored on the internet."

Taiwan has been administered officially since 1949 by the 1911 Republic of China, an entity that few countries now recognize diplomatically.

Beijing sees the island as one of its provinces awaiting "reunification" and has put pressure on its diplomatic partners to isolate Taipei on the international stage.

Abusive comments from China

Taiwan's Sunflower student protest movement occupied the island's parliament, the Legislative Yuan, in 2014 to protest plans for closer ties with China under then KMT president Ma Ying-jeou, Tsai's predecessor.

After a massive online backlash from internet users in China, Fu doubled down on her pro-independence comments via her Facebook page.

"I received more than 10,000 comments on my Facebook page, the majority of which came from China, including a lot of abusive and attacking ones, but I'm neither very angry nor sad after reading them," Fu wrote.

"My speech at the awards ceremony wasn't made on a whim, and neither was it made, as some Chinese netizens have said, at the instruction of the [ruling] Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) government," she said.

"This is something I have been wanting to say all along with that film."

Participants from mainland China later boycotted the banquet celebrating the awards in protest at Fu's speech, and Fu said she has been warned by many that she will never gain entry to the movie industry in mainland China now.

"Of course it's a shame that I won't be having contact with the best people working in the Chinese film industry now, but I am prepared for that outcome ... and I have no regrets," she said in her Facebook post.

Entertainment industry figures in Taiwan and Hong Kong have routinely been blacklisted and had their work banned from mainland China after they expressed pro-independence or pro-democracy views.

Gong Yujian, an exiled dissident from mainland China now based in Taiwan, said the administration of President Xi Jinping expects total submission to the party line from anyone working in its creative industries.

"Artists [in mainland China] are the guardians of the current system, because these so-called artists rely on the system to make their living," Gong said. "If they ever have an idea of their own, the only possible outcome would be for them to be shut down entirely."

"Under the total suppression carried out by the Chinese Communist Party, there is no concept that there should be no politics in ... the film and entertainment industry," he said.

'Anti-communist award'

Writer Neil Peng, whose co-authoring of the screenplay for Ang Lee's The Wedding Banquet netted him a Golden Horse in 1993, said the awards date back to KMT rule on Taiwan under late Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek, and refer not to horses, but to Taiwan's outpost islands of Kinmen and Matsu, which would be first in line in any invasion from across the Taiwan Strait.

"It's an anti-communist award," Peng said. "Anyone trying to redefine it today from their own perspective is really pretty ignorant."

Peng said he had thanked "political dissidents" when he made his acceptance speech at the awards in 1993, and the then ruling KMT had cut off the live broadcast too.

"Back in the day, the KMT did the exact same thing that the Communist Party is doing now," he said.

In July, an iconic statue of Chiang was splattered in blood-like stains after protesters filled egg-shells with red paint and hurled them at the Generalissimo's image, in protest at the use of public money to maintain symbols of authoritarian Chinese rule.

Activists from the groups From Ethnos to Nation (FETN) and Chhengliân To̍kphài (Youth For Independence) also unfurled banners that read: "Eliminate Chinese tyranny: build our own Republic of Taiwan!"

FETN said the red paint represented the blood of victims of 38 years of martial law under the authoritarian presidencies of Chiang Kai-shek and his son, Chiang Ching-kuo.

A 2006 government-funded report found that Chiang Kai-shek bore the main responsibility for mass killings of civilians by KMT nationalist troops in Taiwan during a massacre on Feb. 28, 1947, prompting victims' groups and social activists to call for an end to public veneration of the late Generalissimo.

The bloodshed was triggered after a fight broke out between government officials and an illegal cigarette vendor in Taipei on Feb. 27, 1947, sparking an uprising of native Taiwanese against the incoming KMT regime.

Further violence followed as the KMT imposed decades of martial law, including several waves of political purges of government opponents that saw 140,000 tried by military courts in an era known as the White Terror, during which thousands were executed.

Taiwan had been ruled as a Japanese colony in the 50 years prior to the end of World War II, but was handed back to the 1911 Republic of China as part of Tokyo's post-war reparation deal.

Reported by Hsia Hsiao-hwa for RFA's Mandarin Service, and by Wong Siu-san and Lau Siu-fung for the Cantonese Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.


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