Criticizing the content of TV shows sponsored by the Hakka Affairs Council (HAC) as humiliating to the Hakka people, lawmakers across party lines in the legislature’s Internal Administration Committee yesterday canceled a NT$2 million (US$67,500) sponsorship budget for the council.
“I’m not opposed to it if the HAC would use it to sponsor variety shows that promote Hakka culture, but it’s absolutely ridiculous for such shows to ‘introduce’ Hakka culture in a humiliating way, and you [the HAC] just sit around and do nothing,” Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Tuan Yi-kang (段宜康) said during a committee budget session. “You’re the highest government institution representing the Hakka people, yet you’re paying money to ask someone to make fun of Hakkas That doesn’t make any sense to me.”
“Some ‘jokes’ may not be a problem in a variety show on a purely commercial TV station, but it’s a big problem when this is a show sponsored by the HAC,” Tuan added.
Tuan refers to an episode in a Council-sponsored variety show that talks of the traditional belief that a man would lead a happy life if he marries a Hakka woman, but a woman would lead a miserable life if she marries a Hakka man, while in another episode a joke is made about the Hakka pronunciation of mochi (麻糬), a traditional sweet snack made of rice.
The traditional belief stems from the stereotypical image of hardworking Hakka women and Hakka men who ask their wives to work hard. The mochi joke refers to the Hakka pronunciation of the snack, qiba, resembling a Hoklo (also known as Taiwanese) term for the female reproductive organ, which is often used to refer to someone who is mean.
In a video clip showed during the meeting, an entertainer of Hakka origin introduced qiba as a representative Hakka snack, another replied: “So can I call Hakkas qiba?”
“I fully support the HAC idea of using TV shows that are popular among the nation’s youth to promote Hakka culture, but it should be more cautious on the content and quality of such shows, which should not humiliate Hakkas,” said Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Hsu Hsin-ying (徐欣瑩), who is also a Hakka.
HAC Minister Huang Yu-chen (黃玉振) admitted that the content in the clips shown during the meeting could deepen negative stereotypes of Hakka culture and people.
“We not only regret it, but will also make sure that this will not happen again,” he said.
Despite the HAC’s promise, the committee still decided to remove the NT$2 million budget as a penalty.
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