Showbiz celebrities should be prepared for public scrutiny

Politics and entertainment are often seen as separate domains. But in the age of the internet and social media, the line has become increasingly blurred.

PUBLISHED : Monday, 01 February, 2016, 1:03am
UPDATED : Monday, 01 February, 2016, 1:03am

Politics and the entertainment business are often seen as two separate spheres. Yet they converge when showbiz celebrities stir trouble for what they say or do. Actors and singers being caught in political rows are not uncommon in the cross-strait and Hong Kong contexts. The case involving Taiwanese K-pop singer Chou Tzu-yu shows a political faux pas could escalate into a controversy that even had an impact on the island’s presidential election.

If a survey is any guide, more than a million young voters went to the polls or changed their vote shortly after the 16-year-old had been forced to apologise for holding the Republic of China’s flag during an earlier show. She was first branded as “pro-independence” by a mainland-based Taiwan artiste, who portrays himself as a whistle-blower of politically incorrect behaviour in the industry.

The teenage idol won public sympathy not only for her political innocence. There were debates on whether she had crossed the line by waving the flag, which is seen as acceptable under the “One China” principle endorsed by the mainland and Taiwan in 1992. State media on the mainland later sought to clear her of any wrongdoing, saying the criticisms were unfair.

Local artistes are no less susceptible to political rows. Our increasingly charged political atmosphere and growing integration of different entertainment industries across the border mean singers and actors can get themselves into trouble inadvertently. Some figures also knowingly weigh into politics, as shown in the pro-democracy Occupy movements and other sensitive issues involving the mainland authorities. They still face a backlash in Hong Kong and across the border.

Arguably, showbiz and politics are best left as two domains. But in the age of the internet and social media, the line has become increasingly blurred. What is meant to be personal act and opinion may soon be publicised and politicised. Public figures and celebrities should be prepared for close public scrutiny of what they do and say.