As the political tides ebb and flow around the shores of the South China Sea, entertainers from Taiwan and Hong Kong have long struggled to keep out of its deadly currents, not always successfully. Back in 2000, pop diva A-mei (阿妹), aka Chang Hui-mei (張惠妹), got herself banned from performing in China for singing Taiwan’s national anthem at Chen Shui-bian’s (陳水扁) inauguration as president. The ban didn’t last, of course, and Ah-mei remains a huge favorite among fans across the strait. But now, Ah-mei has taken another hit, once again from the Chinese, whose nationalist sentiments have been enraged over the Japanese purchase of the largely barren outcrops of rock variously called the Senkaku or Diaoyutai islands.
Ah-mei was in the Chinese city of Changsha (長沙) for a concert when Li Rui (李銳), a producer with Hunan TV (湖南電視台), posted a comment on Sina Weibo (新浪微博), a microblog similar to Twitter, asking: “Isn’t this lady (Ah-Mei) pro-Japanese?”
The posting enraged Ah-mei fans, who suggested that this was an attempt to encourage extremists to disrupt the concert, and Li subsequently deleted the post. Over the last decade, hard linguistic and national boundaries have fallen in Asia, and Taiwanese and Hong Kong stars have found a strong market in Japan. They have not been shy about making the most of it, but now, with anti-Japanese feeling on the rise, they have been quick to protect themselves from the storm. And no wonder, when terms like “race traitor” (漢奸) are being bandied about with disturbing frequency.
Supermodel Lin Chi-ling (林志玲) has put off any further participation in the Sino-Japanese co-produced film Sweetheart Chocolate (甜心巧克力), in which she co-stars with leading man Hiroyuki Ikeuchi. She had been booked for a promotional tour of Japan starting next month. Her agent Fan Ching-mei (范清美) is quoted as saying: “We just don’t want to get involved in anything political. We are just performers and we just want to get on with our work.”
Superstar actor Tony Leung (梁朝偉) has also taken a hit for nothing more than his reported interest in participating in Japanese auteur Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s new project. A report in our sister paper the Liberty Times says that Internet commentators have asked why someone who is so wealthy and who has so many projects available to him should choose to collaborate with the Japanese. That the project offers Leung a chance to work with one of the world’s most talented and exciting contemporary directors is a fact that does not seem to penetrate the rabid nationalistic blur. Leung’s agent has been backpedaling in a distressing manner, coming out with statements about how no contracts have been signed, and that verbal agreements had been made long before all this business about the islands ever arose.
Other performers with strong Japanese fan bases, including Jerry Yan (言承旭), Peter Ho (何潤東) and Vivian Hsu (徐若瑄) have all denied any immediate plans to tour Japan.
Show Luo (羅志祥) has arguably taken the biggest hit, as he was scheduled to release a Japanese-language album this month and had two major promotional concerts planned. “Until this issue is resolved, I will cancel all Japanese promotional activity,” Luo said. The cancellation of the concerts reportedly lost the singer NT$12 million in revenue, but Chinese bloggers have lauded the singer for “having guts.”