Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chu (陳菊) yesterday reaffirmed the city's commitment to screening a documentary on Uighur independence activist Rebiya Kadeer to highlight the city's support for human rights despite opposition from Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) councilors.
The move came as two directors pulled their films from the city's upcoming film festival in protest and the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) announced plans to screen the film nationwide.
Fielding questions from KMT City Councilor May Zai-hsin (梅再興) at the city council, Chen said the city's image as a supporter of freedom and human rights would suffer a serious blow if the city government canceled the screenings.
May compared Kadeer to Osama bin Laden and Adolf Hitler, urging the mayor to halt the screenings.
Chen told the councilor that the city government would not change its plan to screen the documentary because of protests by Beijing.
“Taiwan is a free and democratic society. We respect the choice of the organizers of the Kaohsiung Film Festival,” Chen said.
“The best way to deal with Kadeer's documentary is to allow the public to see for themselves what the film is about,” she said.
The festival has attracted controversy since its organizers announced early this month it would include The 10 Conditions of Love featuring Kadeer.
Representatives from the city's tourism sector have complained about cancelations by Chinese tour groups, saying the groups are avoiding Kaohsiung because of the planned screenings.
The city government said on Saturday it would not cancel the screenings, but brought the date forward to today and tomorrow. It also said that tomorrow's screening will move to a bigger venue, FE21 Mall's Vieshow Cinema, because of increased demand.
Chen said the decision was made to prevent the controversy from escalating.
Chen said yesterday that she understood the concerns of the tourism sector, but “it would be too dangerous to allow Kaohsiung City's tourism development to fully depend on China's goodwill.”
But DPP City Councilor Huang Chao-hsing (黃昭星) said the city government should also screen the film at every park in the city.
“Are we going to sacrifice our democracy, freedom and dignity for money? Kaohsiung City is not a prostitute who will give up her dignity for money,” Huang said.
Two film directors — Chen Li-kuei (陳麗貴) and Chen Yu-ching (陳育青) — said yesterday they were withdrawing their films in protest against the city government's decision to bring forward the documentary's screening.
“Following such disgraceful action, we wouldn't know how to face the audience if we were to show our documentaries on Taiwan's struggle for freedom and democracy as planned in the section of the festival called 'The Power of the People,'” Chen Yu-ching said by telephone.
Chen Yu-ching is the director of My Human Rights Journey (我的人權之旅), a documentary on the prison on Green Island (綠島), where political dissidents were jailed during the White Terror era.
Director Chen Li-kuei also announced the withdrawal of her film The Burning Mission: Rescue of Political Prisoners in Taiwan.
On the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights last year, the city government announced it would create a special section titled “the power of the people” dedicated to films about human rights and freedom in this year's festival.
Both films were scheduled to be shown in this section.
“We regret that Mayor Chen Chu failed to defend the professionalism and independence of the festival and dishonored the 'city of human rights' title that Kaohsiung has given itself,” the two said in a joint statement.
“Bowing to political pressure and showing the film in a 'special screening' before the festival is not only a humiliation to the filmmaker, but also a rejection of the dream that Rebiya Kadeer pursues,” they said.
“Since the Kaohsiung City Government did not carefully consider all factors and does not respect the professionalism and independence of the festival, we would like to express our deepest regrets and withdraw our films,” the statement said.
DPP Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) yesterday urged the central government to intervene, instead of letting the city government shoulder all the pressure from China.
“Cross-strait relations are the responsibility of the central government,” Tsai said. “It should share some of the burden.”
DPP spokesman Chao Tien-lin (趙天麟) said the party would “respect Kaohsiung's decision as an independent government body.”
However, the party would try to hold screenings of the film around the country, Chao said.
NINE NEW CASES: The CECC said two locally transmitted cases of COVID-19, and seven imported ones – five women and two men – brought the nation’s total to 348 People who refuse to wear a mask on public transportation after being asked to do so would face a NT$3,000 to NT$15,000 fine, effective immediately, the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) said yesterday after announcing nine additional COVID-19 cases. In a move to curtail the spread of the novel coronavirus, the Ministry of Transportation and Communications on Tuesday announced that people must wear masks on trains and intercity buses, while Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), who heads the center, on Tuesday said that people should wear them when they cannot maintain a social distance of 1.5m indoors. Chen yesterday
TRILLION PROPOSED: The premier said the goal was to keep ‘businesses solvent, the unemployment rate down, transportation and logistics going, and cash flowing’ The Executive Yuan yesterday announced an expanded economic stimulus package totaling NT$1.05 trillion (US$34.64 billion), including NT$81.6 billion in subsidies for employers to prevent a spike in unemployment. The increased budget comprises a special budget of NT$210 billion, up from the NT$60 billion already passed by the Legislative Yuan; NT$140 billion — up from NT$40 billion — to be appropriated from the general budget; and NT$700 billion in loans to industries affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, Directorate-General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics Minister Chu Tzer-ming (朱澤民) told a news conference at the Executive Yuan in Taipei. The NT$150 billion increase in the
TARGETED TEXTS: The center’s head said that visitor numbers at scenic spots were greater than expected and people did not do a very good job of social distancing The Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) yesterday sent two warning text messages to urge people to practice social distancing, especially by avoiding crowded scenic areas. The two messages were sent at 11:55am on the third day of the four-day Tomb Sweeping Day weekend, reminding people about social distancing and hand hygiene to help prevent COVID-19 infection. “When visiting crowded scenic spots during the Tomb Sweeping Day weekend, please keep a social distance of at least 1.5m indoors and 1m outdoors, wear a mask and wash your hands frequently. Please wear a mask and seek immediate medical attention if you are feeling ill
The US National Security Council yesterday thanked Taiwan for its support amid the COVID-19 pandemic following President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) announcement that Taiwan would donate 10 million masks to hard-hit countries. The donation includes 2 million masks to the US on top of the weekly 100,000 announced previously; 7 million to Europe; and 1 million to diplomatic allies, on top of 1 million Taiwan procured for allies from their neighboring countries, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on Wednesday. After European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen expressed appreciation for the donations, the US body yesterday wrote its thanks on Twitter. “We