Taiwanese writer to protest over Man Booker listing his nationality as ‘Taiwan, China’

Literary prize nominee Wu Ming-yi says he does not agree self-ruled island is part of China

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 31 March, 2018, 2:37pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 31 March, 2018, 11:29pm

A Taiwanese author whose novel is nominated for the renowned Man Booker International Prize said he will protest to the awards organiser for changing his nationality to “Taiwan, China”.

Days after Wu Ming-yi’s The Stolen Bicycle was longlisted with 12 other books for the prestigious award on March 12, Wu said his nationality had been quietly changed from “Taiwan” to “Taiwan, China” on the Man Booker website.

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Wu, a popular writer and environmental activist, now says he will complain to the organisers for making the change without consulting him. The move has also sparked a public outcry after Wu said on his Facebook page he could not agree that Taiwan was part of China.

On Saturday, Wu said he was seeking advice on how to deal with the situation, without elaborating.

But he was clear about his stance on Taiwan: “I will keep my position [on this issue] firm.”

Taiwan has been self-ruled since splitting from the Chinese mainland after the 1949 civil war, but Beijing sees it as a wayward province and continues to claim sovereignty over it.

Wu’s book, written in Chinese and translated into English, is about a novelist searching for his missing father’s bicycle. The shortlist for the prize will be announced on April 12 and the winner on May 22.

His Facebook post has been viewed by more than 25,000 people and a number of them have left messages of support for the 47-year-old author, who teaches Sinophone literature at National Dong Hwa University in the eastern city of Hualien.

Taiwanese author Liu Yu-min and graphic artist Lin Li-chin, both of whom live overseas, also called on Wu’s supporters to write to the organiser in protest over the change.

The official Man Booker Facebook page has meanwhile been flooded with angry comments saying Taiwan should be listed separately. Some commenters criticised the organisers for changing Wu’s nationality to please Beijing, others said the move was disrespectful, and that politics had no part in the award.

Taiwan’s foreign and culture ministries also weighed in, saying they were dismayed by the change and calling on the organisers to prevent it from happening again. They also asked their representative offices in Britain to find out what had happened.

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The Man Booker organisers said they were advised “Taiwan, China” was the “correct, politically neutral form”, but were seeking clarification from Britain’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

“We are aware that Wu Ming-yi defines himself as Taiwanese and have kept him informed throughout the process,” they said in a statement on Friday.

The controversy comes after the Federation of Medical Students in Taiwan was told two weeks ago that its country name had been changed to “Taiwan, China” on the International Federation of Medical Students Associations website.

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It also follows Beijing’s rebuke of foreign firms, including fashion retailer Zara, hotel chain Marriott and Delta Air Lines, for listing Taiwan as a separate country on their websites.

Beijing suspended official talks and exchanges with the government of Tsai Ing-wen after she became Taiwan’s president and refused to accept the “one-China” principle in 2016.

Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse