- BEIJING (AP)
China said Wednesday that it was banning Chinese movies and actors from participating in Taiwan's Golden Horse Awards, one of the Asian film industry's most prestigious honors, as Beijing ramps up economic and political pressure on the island it claims as its own territory.
The one-sentence announcement on the microblog of China Film News, a newspaper affiliated with the government film regulator, gave no reason for the suspension, but it comes amid rising tensions over Taiwan's refusal to recognize being part of Chinese territory to eventually be brought under Beijing's rule.
Even without the ban, Chinese artists might have found it difficult to make it to the Nov. 23 ceremony. Beijing recently issued a ban on solo travel to the island beginning Sept. 1 as part of measures to inflict an economic cost for its failure to obey.
Chinese participation was already in doubt following last year's ceremony, which was marked by Chinese displeasure over remarks in an acceptance speech by documentary director Fu Yue calling on the world to recognize Taiwan as an independent country, something only a handful of nations currently do.
Chinese participants refused to appear on stage, made pointed remarks about Taiwan and China being members of the same family, and then declined to attend the banquet reception following the show.
Asked about the announcement, the organizing committee said it was disappointed but the show would go on as scheduled.
"The Committee regrets to be informed of the news, if it is confirmed," it said in an emailed statement. "The jury process of Golden Horse Awards is ongoing and will continue as planned, and all Golden Horse events will take place as usual."
Chinese entrants have been big winners at the show since they were first invited to attend in 1996, with China's Xu Zheng winning best actor last year for his work in "Dying to Survive." Taiwan's Central News Agency said the festival was still in the process of choosing films and it wasn't immediately clear if any from China had already been withdrawn.
Presidential office spokesman Ernesto Ting Yun-kung said China's move "not only harmed exceptional members of the Chinese film industry but also positive exchanges between the sides."
"Culture has no borders and art especially should not face political barriers. No matter what the reason, it's not a smart move to prevent those in arts and culture from participating in this sort of a film industry event that encourages free creation and welcomes multiple viewpoints," Ting said.
Fu set off a firestorm of criticism in China last year after she said during her acceptance speech 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.
Taiwan split from mainland China amid civil war in 1949, but Beijing considers the self-ruled island part of its territory.
Chinese lambasted Fu on China's 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.
Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen, who is loathed by Beijing for her pro-independence stance, expressed her support for Fu, saying in a Facebook post that the annual awards 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."
Academy Award-winning Taiwanese director Ang Lee, whose films include "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" and "Brokeback Mountain" and who chaired the awards committee, appeared to anticipate the backlash to Fu's speech, telling reporters after the ceremony, "I hope that no one will come to interfere (with the awards)."
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.
Along with cutting numbers of Chinese visitors to Taiwan, China has been luring away the island's remaining diplomatic allies and preventing its representatives from participating in international gatherings. Culture and sports events have also become targets, with Taiwan last year losing the right to hold the East Asian Youth Games under reported pressure from China.
China holds its own film awards, known as the Golden Rooster, but their influence is constrained by the strong ideological controls on the arts exerted by the ruling Communist Party that largely bar darker or alternative lifestyle themes.
Associated Press writers Juwon Park in Hong Kong and Taijing Wu in Taipei, Taiwan, contributed to this report.