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Taiwan’s president expressed her support for the prestigious Golden Horse film awards after a pro-Taiwan independence director’s speech ignited controversy in mainland China.
“We have never accepted the term ‘Chinese Taiwan,'” Tsai Ing-wen said in a Facebook post Sunday. “Taiwan is just Taiwan.”
Director Fu Yue said during her acceptance speech Saturday in Taipei that her biggest hope was for “our country” to be regarded as an “independent entity.” Her film Our Youth in Taiwan won best documentary at the awards, which are akin to a Chinese-language Oscars.
Taiwan split from mainland China amid civil war in 1949, but Beijing considers the self-ruled island part of its territory.
In recent years, the ruling Communist Party has ratcheted up pressure on other countries to cut diplomatic ties with Taiwan — a prerequisite for establishing formal relations with China. Only 17 mainly small, developing countries still recognize Taiwan as a sovereign nation.
Chinese lambasted Fu on the Twitter-like Weibo platform following her win, sharing posts under the hashtag “Not one speck of China can go missing” and a map of China that includes Taiwan and territories it claims in the South China Sea.
The hashtag was used by high-profile actress Fan Bingbing, who disappeared from public life for months this year before being convicted on tax evasion charges in October.
Outraged online commenters also took to Fu’s personal Facebook page, which they littered with derogatory posts. Facebook is blocked in mainland China and can only be accessed through software that circumvents government filters, known as the Great Firewall.
Tsai said in her post that the Golden Horse Awards, presented annually in Taipei, highlight the freedoms that set Taiwan apart from China.
“Here [in Taiwan] there aren’t people who 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.”
China’s government cut ties with Tsai’s administration after her 2016 inauguration and has repeatedly denounced her for refusing to accept its claim that Taiwan is a part of China.
Our Youth in Taiwan follows a young Taiwanese man and a young mainland Chinese woman who are at the center of student movements in Taiwan.
The Golden Horse Awards, now in their 55th year, were chaired by Academy Award-winning Taiwanese director Ang Lee, whose films include Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Brokeback Mountain.
Lee appeared to anticipate the backlash against Fu’s speech, telling reporters after the ceremony, “I hope that no one will come to interfere [with the awards]. I hope that the Golden Horse Awards will remain very pure.”
“Please, everyone, respect the filmmakers,” he urged, according to Taiwan’s Central News Agency.
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.
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Samuel L. Jackson