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Actors Hsieh Ying-xuan and Xu Zheng pose after winning top honours at the Golden Horse awards in 2018. Xu, from mainland China, won the award for his role in the box-office hit Dying to Survive. Photo: Reuters

Mainland China to boycott Golden Horse awards in latest attempt to squeeze Taiwan

  • The ‘Chinese-language Oscars’ will not feature mainland Chinese films – the first time Beijing has banned them from it
  • It follows last week’s ban on solo mainland travellers visiting Taiwan, set to cost the self-ruled island billions in lost tourism

Mainland China will not take part in the film awards dubbed the “Chinese-language Oscars”, held in Taiwan, Beijing’s film administrators announced on Wednesday, reflecting tensions across the strait.

A newspaper affiliated with the China Film Administration reported that representatives from the mainland movie industry would not attend the annual Taipei Golden Horse Film Festival and Awards on November 23.

Earlier reports had suggested that the Golden Rooster Awards, the mainland’s annual film event, would be held on the same date in Xiamen in southeast China.

This will be the first time that Beijing has banned its films and filmmakers from attending the Golden Horse Awards since Taiwan officially allowed the mainland to take part in 1996.

The report did not give a reason for the boycott but Long Mingbiao, deputy director of the mainland’s Taiwan Affairs Office, said it was prompted by the state of cross-strait relations.

Ernesto Ting Yun-kung, spokesman for Taiwan’s Presidential Office, said political considerations should not affect cultural exchanges.

Amid China boycott of Taiwan film festival, five other times it used culture as a political tool

Beijing has severed communication with Taipei since Tsai Ing-wen of the independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party became the island’s president and refused to recognise the one-China principle.

Chien-min Chao, a former head of Taiwan’s Straits Exchange Foundation, which represents Taipei in affairs with the mainland, said he could not understand why Beijing had decided to block mainland participation in the awards.

“The prohibition ... contradicts Beijing’s earlier claims that they would support cultural exchanges in the aftermath of the suspension of all official communication channels. The move will definitely have an adverse effect on the cross-strait relationship,” Chao said.

Paul Lim, a Taipei-based political commentator, said the boycott was an attempt to stop Taiwan influencing the mainland industry representatives.

Taiwan-born director Fu Yue (left), who won best documentary last year, caused controversy in mainland China by saying she hoped “our country” would be seen as an “independent entity”. Photo: AP
Talk of a ban began last year after Taiwan-born documentary director Fu Yue called for the world to recognise Taiwan as an independent country during her acceptance speech, prompting mainland industry representatives to boycott the celebration party.
Also at last year’s awards, mainland actor Xu Zheng was named the best leading actor for Dying to Survive and Zhang Yimou was named best director for Shadow. An Elephant Sitting Still, directed by the mainland’s Hu Bo, was awarded best feature film.

The Golden Horse awards’ organising committee said the mainland’s decision was “regrettable”, Taiwan’s Central News Agency reported. The committee said that the festival’s events would be held as scheduled.

More than 685 productions were submitted for this year’s Golden Horse Film Festival. The line-up includes 148 feature films but Taiwanese media reported that Zhang Yimou’s new movie One Second would not be one of them.

Lo Wai-luk, honorary resident writer at the Academy of Film at Hong Kong Baptist University, said having both the Golden Horse and Golden Rooster awards on the same day would push filmmakers, including those from Hong Kong, to choose to attend either one.

Film director at centre of Taiwan storm stands by Golden Horse remarks

“This is creating division and rivalry between the two festivals,” he said. “This is not beneficial to the exchanges between filmmakers across the strait. This policy does not have any political wisdom.”

Tenky Tin Kai-man, chairman of the executive committee of the Federation of Hong Kong Filmmakers, said entries for the two events had not been finalised so it was not clear what the impact on the Hong Kong movie industry would be.

The Golden Horse awards were founded in 1962, and have recognised a number of top mainland artists in the last two decades, including actors Jiang Wen and Xia Yu.

Yik Chan Chin, a media and communications lecturer at Xian Jiaotong-Liverpool University, said the Golden Horse awards were a major platform for film exchanges between the mainland, Hong Kong and Taiwan and it was a “pity that the mainland is not joining the event this year”.

Chin said she believed the boycott decision was based on complexities in the relationship between Taiwan, Hong Kong and the mainland.

“Cultural exchanges are not the top priority,” she said. “But the situation may improve if the Kuomintang wins the island’s presidential election.”

Beijing is using Chinese tourists to inflict economic pain – but does it work?

The boycott comes after Beijing last week announced a ban on solo mainland travellers visiting Taiwan, which is expected to cost the island NT$28 billion (US$900 million) by January.

In response to that announcement, Taiwanese Transport Minister Lin Chai-lung said his government would spend an additional NT$3.6 billion in the fourth quarter of the year to promote tourism.

Additional reporting by Lawrence Chung and Minnie Chan

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: Beijing blocks films and stars from Golden Horse awards