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Angelina Jolie has created a controversy in China just a week after her visit to Shanghai to promote her new movie Maleficent, which is set to open in China later this month.
During media interviews in Shanghai, Jolie was asked to name her favorite Chinese director. She chose Ang Lee, who was born in Taiwan.
“I am not sure if you consider Ang Lee Chinese, he’s Taiwanese, but he does many Chinese-language films with many Chinese artists and actors, and I think his works and the actors in his films are the ones I am most familiar with and very fond of,” Jolie said.
Taiwan and China have been at odds since 1949, when the Nationalists set up a rival government on the island following their loss to the Communists in China’s civil war. Relations between the two sides have warmed recently, but China’s government still sees Taiwan as a renegade province and has not ruled out using force to reclaim it.
Jolie’s remarks have let to a number of scathing comments online from Chinese Internet users, some of whom have threatened to boycott her movies, according to The Wall Street Journal.
Chinese Weibo users, The Journal reported, are upset at Jolie for “disrespecting China’s sovereignty,” as one user put it.
“By implying that Taiwan and China are two separate countries, in a moment of excitement, a brilliant woman [Jolie] became a stupid laughingstock,” wrote one Chinese Weibo user, according to the Journal.
Another user was furious to discover that the star is a “deranged Taiwan independence supporter,” the Journal noted.
Maleficent is set to be released in China on June 20. It remains to be seen how this controversy will affect ticket sales.
Meanwhile, in Taiwan, Jolie has received support for her comments, with one Internet user calling her a “brave and brilliant woman,” the Journal said.
“Her comment about Ang Lee being Taiwanese shows she fully deserves to be the Goodwill Ambassador for the UN. She is not afraid to tell the truth,” another Taiwanese woman wrote on Facebook, adding that she plans to gather a group of her friends to support Jolie’s new film, according to the Journal.
Maleficent is the second-highest-grossing film in Taipei since it opened there on May 30, according to box office-tracking website Kaiyan, the Journal reported.
Jolie’s partner, Brad Pitt, angered Chinese authorities when he appeared in the 1997 film Seven Years in Tibet and was subsequently banned from the country, although he accompanied Jolie on her trip to Shanghai last week.
Jolie’s lawyer has not yet responded to The Hollywood Reporter‘s request for comment.
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