Fri, Mar 28, 2014 - Page 11 News List

Live Wire: From black island to black list

Taiwan’s indie pop stars incur the wrath of the Chinese Internet

By David Frazier  /  Contributing reporter

Ashin, left, is trying to put water on the fire of Chinese netizen’s ire.

Photo: TT

Walking through the protests on Qingdao East Road last weekend, music people were everywhere. One music festival organizer was inside the Legislative Yuan running the occupy movement’s live Web stream. Another had rushed the doors of the Legislative Yuan on March 18 and helped to hold the chamber as police tried to remove him four times. Others were in the crowd, or drinking beer at 7-Eleven. After the police action of Monday morning, many of these turned their Facebook profile pictures black in solidarity with the student protesters of the Black Island Nation Youth (黑色島國青年), the group spearheading the protests now widely known as the Sunflower Movement.

AWKWARD SITUATION

The protests present an extremely awkward position for many young pop stars, whose friends and former classmates are protesting on the streets of Taipei, but whose income relies on concerts and music sales in China. Many could not help but support the protesters, if only in oblique statements on Facebook. Though the site is blocked in China, Chinese Internet mobs still find out almost immediately, and they have not taken the statements lightly.

Several artists and groups under 40, including Mayday (五月天), Deserts Chang (張懸), Crowd Lu (盧廣仲), Yoga Lin (林宥嘉) and William Wei (韋禮安), were banned from airplay on China’s largest radio station, Music Radio (音樂之聲), beginning last Saturday, according to several media reports. On Internet chat sites, the phrase “pro-independence celebrities get out of the Mainland” now has its own hashtag on Weibo, the Chinese micro-blogging site. As of Tuesday, the tag was attached to more than 125,000 posts.

Mayday was first to ignite the flames on Chinese message boards last week, when the band’s bass player Masa (瑪莎) left a note on the window of his Taipei cafe, saying he was closing the shop because he was not willing “to sacrifice Taiwan’s future.” The note invited patrons to hurry to “the Legislative Yuan with us and express our concern for Taiwan.” The band also posted a music video for their song Rise Up (起來) on Facebook.

THE ‘MAINLAND’ CASH COW

The group’s vocalist, Ashin (阿信, aka 陳信宏), or possibly some music industry handler posting for him, ventured onto Weibo to make clumsy attempts at damage control, saying the band was not in fact against the cross-straight service trade agreement and that he “looks forward to the day when the young generations on both sides of the Taiwan Strait can attain a more friendly mutual understanding.” Chinese netizens called this a pile of male bovine feces. Many accused the band of “using the people of the Mainland as a cash machine.”

Pop singer William Wei, a 24-year-old graduate of National Taiwan University, posted his own analysis of the pact conflict on Facebook, and you can pretty much guess how that went. His Taiwanese fans couldn’t click “like” fast enough, but they still couldn’t keep up with China’s haters.

Before the violence of Sunday night, the 32-year-old singer Deserts Chang exhorted her fans, saying, “let them hear your voice. Resist all political parties and manipulation, so that once we are together with the students, the political parties will reflect and change.”

Then on Monday, after the violence, she declared, “What happened today in Taiwan is our history. In any country where institutions and implementation require a fundamental review, whether today or tomorrow, such things will occur.” Perhaps feeling the need to explain herself to Chinese fans, she continued, “These are the kinds of choices our young people have made as they face these times…. Suffering slowly changes the old evils. It is a price the people of this land willingly pay.” The post, which has so far gathered more than 50,000 “likes” on Facebook, opened by saying that she would not tolerate anyone expressing hate on the basis of “ethnicity, nationality or national identity.”

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