Minister of Culture Lung Ying-tai has publicly said that she does not exclude the possibility of eventually signing a cross-strait cultural agreement with China. She has also established a budget of hundreds of millions of New Taiwan dollars for 2014, set aside specifically for cultural exchanges and negotiations with China. However, when Taiwanese artists take their works to China for performances or exhibits, they have repeatedly been subjected to thought censorship and been forced to accept China’s “unwritten rules.” So will the work of the ministry be able gain the freedom and respect for artistic creation that it deserves? Lung has yet to provide a straight answer to this question.
When the National Symphony Orchestra (NSO) was performing in Beijing on Wednesday last week, they did not perform Taiwanese composer Tyzen Hsiao’s The Angel from Formosa as an encore piece, like they had originally intended, explaining afterwards that encores are always selected based on the audience they are playing for. But there is some speculation that the piece was canceled because the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) 18th National Congress was in progress, turning it into a touchy situation. After playing The Angel from Formosa for an audience in Shanghai, the NSO allegedly received a telegram demanding the piece be removed from the program for the Beijing performance.
“He [Hsiao] had no opinion on the matter. It is their country, they can do whatever they want,” Hsiao’s friend, Chuang Chuan-hsien, reiterated after speaking with Hsiao about the piece not being performed in Beijing. Hsiao, who was born in Kaohsiung in 1938, is a world-renowned pianist, conductor and composer. He attained international recognition among classical music circles very early on in his career, but was blacklisted by the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) during the Martial Law period because he based many of his compositions on traditional Taiwanese folk tunes, and was thus perceived to be an advocate for Taiwanese independence.
Poet and theater director Yen Hung-ya, known by his pseudonym Hung Hung, recently posted a quote on his Facebook page by contemporary artist Yao Jui-chung at the beginning of the month: “I was originally going to Huangshan to attend the Photo Fest, but the best Photo Fest in China was canceled the day before it started due to the 18th Party Congress. Many people in China’s arts and culture circles are infuriated.” Even more interesting, though, is that the event’s main organizer posted a notice on their Web site the day before the opening ceremony, informing people that the festival would be postponed indefinitely because they were still in the process of planning and organizing, which left artists coming from all over the world hanging and not knowing when the festival would actually take place.
Yang Yi, spokesman for China’s Taiwan Affairs Office, recently said that China welcomes Lung to visit China “in an appropriate capacity.” Evidently, as to whether the Ministry of Culture will be able to ensure the artistic freedom and integrity of Taiwanese artists when visiting China, we must first ask Lung what office she intends to fill when trying to deal with the Chinese on an equal footing.
(Liberty Times, Translated by Kyle Jeffcoat)