Following months of pressure from rights advocates and high-profile celebrities, film director Steven Spielberg last month opted out of his role as artistic adviser to the Beijing Olympics, a move that was praised by many -- except those in Beijing.
As a filmmaker with a conscience who gave us, among others, Schindler's List and Munich (the Olympic link couldn't be more obvious), Spielberg's association with a government that has no compunction in supporting the genocidal regime in Sudan was also proving too damaging to his image.
But while Spielberg has been the focus of all the bad publicity, other advisers to the Games have managed to avoid pressure -- and one of them is Taiwan's Ang Lee (
Lee's reasons to reconsider his role as an arts and culture consultant for the Games (under Chinese director Zhang Yimou [
Beijing's agenda hit closer to home over the weekend when the government announced that Chinese actress Tang Wei (
In and of itself, this should be sufficient to dispel any illusion that art and politics do not mix, for in Beijing's world, politics -- World War II, Sino-Japanese relations -- are being used to destroy an artist's livelihood.
While artists may seek to transcend political differences, they should never lose sight of the fact that they, too, have responsibilities and that art, even in its "purest" form, cannot be apolitical. As role models, artists of Lee's caliber are in a far better position to fire imaginations -- and ultimately influence views -- than most politicians. Consequently, by choosing to work with Beijing or by remaining silent in the face of injustice, Lee could be seen to be rationalizing Chinese repression.
As George Orwell observed: The opinion that art should have nothing to do with politics is itself a political attitude.
And now, should he remain silent on Beijing's attack on one of its own, Lee would send a signal that it is acceptable for a government to use politics to violate freedom of expression and dictate what artists can and cannot address in their work.
In fact, by accepting Beijing's invitation to serve as an adviser to the Games, Lee was telling the world that it was negotiable for China to ban his previous movie, Brokeback Mountain.
If genocide in Sudan, the jailing of Chinese dissidents, the suppression of Taiwan and molestation of Tibet are not enough to change Lee's mind, then perhaps this latest overt attack against one of his creations and one of his stars will be the last straw.
Lee now has no choice but to put aside the "softly, softly" approach, stand by Tang's side and follow in Spielberg's footsteps.
In the closing weeks of 2000, an army of Singaporean government officials descended on Washington to make good on a handshake between then-US President Bill Clinton and Singaporean Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong (吳作棟). They had agreed to strike an FTA after a round of golf in Brunei that past November. Running a small city-state, Singapore’s leaders and their diplomats live with their ear to the ground, attuned to the slightest geopolitical movements. They were motivated then by a big-picture strategic concern — keeping the US embedded in their region. An FTA they thought would help do that. It worked. Clinton’s successor,
On Oct. 7, the Chinese embassy in New Delhi sent letters to the Indian media asking them to refrain from calling Taiwan a country while reporting on its 109th National Day, which fell on Saturday last week. This move backfired and, on the contrary, contributed to the immense popularity of Taiwan among Indians, leading to an outpouring of congratulations for it on Twitter. Asked about the letter, the Indian Ministry of External Affairs said: “There is a free media that reports on issues as it sees fit.” Bharatiya Janata Party spokesman Tajinder Singh Bagga put up several banners outside the
On Oct. 6, the UN Committee on Human Rights released a statement on the concentration camps in China’s Xinjiang region in which at least 1 million Uighurs and other ethnic minorities are incarcerated. On the same day, Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) was telling delegates at a Chinese Communist Party (CCP) meeting that “happiness among the people in Xinjiang is on the rise.” It was a stark reminder of the CCP’s longstanding practice of trampling on human rights and deceiving the world. In October last year, the Taiwan East Turkestan Association and the Taiwan Friends of Tibet held an event titled
In a Facebook post on Wednesday last week, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Taipei City Councilor Hsu Chiao-hsin (徐巧芯) wrote: “The KMT must fall for Taiwan to improve.’ Allow me to ask the question again: Is this really true?” It matters not how many times Hsu asks the question, my answer will always be the same: “Yes, the KMT must be toppled for Taiwan to improve.” In the lengthy Facebook post, titled “What were those born in the 1980s guilty of?” Hsu harked back to the idealistic aspirations of the 2014 Sunflower movement before heaping opprobrium on the Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP)