Taipei pulls controversial MRT ads

By Mo Yan-chih  /  Staff reporter

Fri, Aug 23, 2013 - Page 1

The Taipei City Government yesterday removed an advertisement at MRT stations after its content, which referred to China as “inland (內地),” drew public criticism that it showed a lack of national dignity because the term is traditionally used by a colony to refer to its mother country. However, the city government denied that the ad undermined Taiwanese sovereignty.

The ad, designed by the city’s Research, Development and Evaluation Commission to promote Taipei’s international competitiveness, featured an online conversation between two Taiwanese and one Hong Kong resident about the competitiveness of different cities.

The Hong Kong netizen applauded Taipei for ranking 11th in a global city competitiveness survey, saying: “[Taipei’s] ranking was better than all the inland cities on the mainland [referring to China]. Shanghai ranked 38th and Beijing ranked 49th.”

While the controversial ads were being removed from MRT stations, the city government denied that the use of the term “inland” was inappropriate.

Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) said the advertisement used the term because it is commonly used by Hong Kong residents, adding that the city government still refers to China as “mainland China.”

“The ad simply adopted the idiomatic expression of people in Hong Kong, and it was a good promotion [of Taipei’s international competitiveness]. Officially, the Taipei City Government refers to China as ‘mainland China,’” Hau said on the sidelines of a sports activity in Taipei when he was questioned by reporters about the advertisement.

Commission head Yuan Nai-juan (袁乃娟) also shrugged off criticism of the use of the term “inland” in describing China, but said the commission would replace it with “mainland China” in an updated version of the ads.

“The ad was simulating a conversation between Taiwanese and Hong Kong netizens, and aimed to show Taipei’s competitiveness in a creative way. The term ‘inland’ is used by Hong Kong people, not the Taipei City Government,” she said.

The commission acknowledged that it has received several complaints from the public, which said the term suggests that Taiwan is part of China. To avoid further controversy, it removed the ads immediately.

Yuan said the commission would change the term to “mainland China” before putting the ads back up at MRT stations next week.

Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Chen Chi-mai (陳其邁) said Hau should issue a public apology, as the term belittles Taiwanese and is an attempt to pander to China.

Chen said that he had complained earlier this year to Mainland Affairs Council Minister Wang Yu-chi (王郁琦) and Ministry of Culture officials about the use of the term “inland.”

“I pointed out that a number of Taiwanese entertainers and singers are using this term when referring to China,” he said. “It is very inappropriate.’

“Some of them are doing shows in China and have to grovel to Chinese authorities,” he said. “Now even Taipei Mayor Hau is using the term. Doesn’t he know the connotation of this term?”

A number of Taipei residents, when reached for comment, said they did not find the term “creative” or “amusing.”

“This advertising is really stupid,” an office worker surnamed Chou (周) said. “We would have only noticed that Taipei lags behind Tokyo, Hong Kong and Singapore in competitiveness. The fact that Taipei beat the cities in mainland China is not a big deal.”

Additional reporting by Chiu Shao-wen