China has blocked its film industry from attending an annual awards ceremony in Taiwan – dubbed the “Oscars of the Chinese-speaking world” – in the latest sign of tension between Beijing and the self-ruled island.
The Chinese film regulator announced the boycott of the glamourous Golden Horse Awards on Wednesday, without specifying a reason. T
he move follows a ban imposed last week on individual travel permits for Chinese tourists wishing to visit Taiwan, which has been widely viewed as an attempt to damage the Taiwanese economy in the run up to its presidential election next January.
Tsai Ing-wen, the current Taiwanese president, and her ruling Democratic Progressive Party, seen by Beijing as having pro-independence leanings, have been vocally supportive of Hong Kong’s recent pro-democracy protests.
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Relations have also deteriorated over a proposed $2.2 billion arms sale by the US to Taiwan, which China strongly objects to.
China claims Taiwan as its own territory and seeks to annex it. Meanwhile, the island state of 23 million operates like any other democratic nation with its own government, currency, military and foreign policy.
The prestigious Golden Horse Awards will be held on 23 November in Taipei, Taiwan’s capital. The ceremony has recognised and feted Chinese actors and films for their achievements in the past.
Last year, Chinese movie "Dying to Survive" won and was nominated in 7 award categories, while Chinese director Zhang Yimou won best director for his period film "Shadow".
However, some within the film industry had predicted a boycott this year after a controversy in 2018 when Fu Yue, a 36-year-old Taiwanese director, said her “greatest wish” was for “our country to be seen as a truly independent entity”, in her acceptance speech for a winning documentary.
Chinese celebrities expressed outrage, lining up to support Beijing’s claim to Taiwan. Fan Bingbing, one of China’s biggest grossing stars, joined the online furore, writing on social media site Weibo that “China cannot be reduced even just a tiny bit.”
At the time, President Tsai came out batting for the event, posting that it “highlighted how Taiwan is different from China.”
She added: "Here, no one will disappear or be silenced for their differing opinions, nor will we block sensitive keywords on the Internet."
On Wednesday, the Golden Horse Film Festival issued a statement about the Chinese decision, saying "we certainly would feel regret if it was true.” The committed added that related events would still go ahead as scheduled.