Tue, Jun 15, 2004 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: A-mei: enemy of the state

Pop singer Chang Hui-mei (張惠妹), better known

as A-mei, was forced to cancel a performance in Hangzhou on Saturday night after a "protest" by hundreds of students. The students targeted A-mei because she sang the national anthem at President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) inauguration in 2000.

Apparently, this makes A-mei an eternal "pro-Chen singer" and a lifelong "traitor."

With this development we see how the spotlight is shifting in the battlefield of cross-strait relations: Antagonism is now moving back toward the realm of popular culture.

A-mei is an internationally recognized singer who has devoted fans on both sides of the Strait. To sing at Chen's inauguration as a Taiwanese citizen was an honor for both herself and for her nation. At

the time, however, A-mei's few minutes on stage resulted in a four-year media blackout in the Chinese media. Now, once again, Beijing is using her as an example to other Taiwanese performers.

The protest, such as it was, smacked of mobilization by Chinese Communist Party hacks. After organizers of the concert canceled A-mei's show, many of her fans in China felt that their rights had been trampled on and denounced the protest. Other Chinese Internet users compiled a list of "pro-Chen, pro-green" personalities which -- hilariously enough -- included singers who have openly supported the pan-blue alliance.

By targeting someone as manifestly apolitical as A-mei, whose cultural and commercial success has shown a way forward for people on both sides of the Strait, Beijing has once again damaged its credibility -- even among Chinese. It has made A-mei an unwitting pawn and has gone a long way toward destroying a channel for cross-strait friendship. It is now resorting to an extremism that is both bizarre and neurotic and is politicizing an industry which, in this part of the world, usually avoids politics like the plague.

Subtle tactics sometimes work best in the manipulation of politics and economics. On the surface of things, most people are not able or interested to see these forces in action, but at a time of highly developed communications and of vibrant popular culture in a largely affluent society, the

effective boycott of A-mei is both pointless and counterproductive.

It shows off China's disregard for human rights and its proclivity for intolerance while reinforcing among Taiwanese businesspeople the need to minimize risk and keep a safe distance from Beijing's meddling.

The majority of people on both sides of the Strait look forward to the development of better and closer relations between Taiwan and China.

But even if there were 50 million or even 500 million people who would work to promote such relations, Beijing has managed to ensure that a sham demonstration by a few hundred cronies will destroy the work done by many people of talent and goodwill.

If Beijing continues to encourage such stupidity by targeting this and other thriving cultural markets, it can only lead to rising dissatisfaction and the erosion of trust among ordinary people, especially among its increasingly bourgeois youth.

So much for a united front.

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