A-list movie stars about to make a grand entrance at the prestigious Tokyo International Film Festival became the latest victims of turbulent cross-strait relations on Saturday after both the Taiwanese and Chinese delegations missed the star--studded ceremony amid a spat over names.
Despite spending days preparing for the 11-day event, Taiwanese actors and actresses failed to reach the eco-friendly “green carpet” after a Chinese delegation insisted that the Taiwanese group add the word “China” to their country’s name.
“Taiwan, China” or “Chinese Taipei” were the only titles the head of the Chinese delegation, Jiang Ping (江平), said he would accept, threatening to boycott the festival if the change wasn’t made.
“Don’t you want to sell your films in the mainland? Aren’t you all Chinese?” he asked the Taiwanese performers.
Despite repeated protests from Taiwanese officials, Chinese officials held their ground, also pressuring festival organizers to make the change. It was an issue of sovereignty and Beijing “would not concede,” Jiang said.
Expressing frustration at China’s move, festival organizers said the problem was a first for them. The two sides should “coordinate between themselves,” they said, according to the Chinese-language Liberty Times (the Taipei Times’ sister newspaper).
Chen Chih-kuan (陳志寬), head of the Department of Motion Pictures at the Government Information Office, who headed the Taiwanese delegation, said he could not accept Jiang’s demand.
Expressing surprise at the sudden insistence, Chen said the delegation had initially applied to attend the annual event under “Taiwan,” as it had in years past.
The name was accepted by organizers and “we had no reason to make a concession this time around,” he said.
“If it weren’t for Jiang’s insistence, both delegations would have made it to the green carpet,” he told reporters.
Instead, amid the bickering, they missed it.
At a press conference in Tokyo yesterday, the celebrities said they were perplexed and shocked by the incident, although Monga director Doze Niu (鈕承澤) said it wasn’t the first time such things had happened.
Among the A-list celebrities who traveled to Tokyo last week to support films included Vivian Hsu (徐若瑄), Chang Chun-ning (張鈞甯), Ethan Ruan (阮經天) and Mark Chao (趙又廷).
“Chang was ready to walk the [green carpet] looking beautiful in her dress on [Saturday] night ... Ruan, who doesn’t normally wear a tie, tied his especially tight to look handsome,” Hsu said, breaking into tears.
After news broke that the Taiwanese delegation would be unable to walk the green carpet, “Ruan tore his tie off,” she said.
Instead, all the celebrities could do was take photographs of themselves, she said.
The absence of Taiwanese stars left Japanese movie fans puzzled and other Taiwanese celebrities expressing support for the beleaguered delegation, some reports said. Fans were spotted clinging to pictures of Taiwanese celebrities, not realizing that none would be attending.
In Taipei, politicians across party lines universally condemned the Chinese antics, saying it was regrettable a cultural activity had become politicized.
Democratic Progressive Party Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) said the move “made it very clear” that Chinese pressure on Taiwan’s sovereignty had never ceased. The government’s policy of appeasement toward Beijing “had accomplished nothing,” she said.