Mon, Feb 26, 2018 - Page 3 News List

Mauritius hotel calls off event after Chinese threat

SEEING RED:China threatened to have the African nation deny any Taiwanese entry if participants dared to show up to a Hakka Affairs Council culinary and musical event

By Wu Hsin-tien and William Hetherington  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

A poster provided by the Hakka Affairs Council for the canceled Traditional Hakka Cuisine Food Festival, printed by the Labourdonnais Waterfront Hotel in Port Louis, Mauritius, where it was to be held, is pictured yesterday.

Photo: Wu Hsin-tien, Taipei Times

The Hakka Affairs Council (HAC) yesterday condemned China for pressuring a Mauritius hotel into canceling a cultural exchange event planned to take place there this week.

The event, a celebration of Hakka cuisine, was to be held from tomorrow until Wednesday next week at the Labourdonnais Waterfront Hotel in Port Louis, the capital, but the hotel on Saturday afternoon notified the council that it would cancel the event, citing pressure from the local Chinese embassy, HAC Deputy Minister Yang Chang-chen (楊長鎮) told a news conference in Taipei yesterday.

The embassy also threatened that any attempt by council Department of Culture and Education Director Fan Tso-ming (范佐銘) or others associated with the planned event to visit Mauritius would result in them being denied entry and might affect the ability of other Taiwanese to visit the country, he said.

The council is today holding the same event in South Africa, where activities began yesterday, after which it planned to take the event to Mauritius tomorrow, as 80 percent of ethnic Chinese residents there are of Hakka heritage.

The council invited celebrated Hakka chefs Jerry Chiu (邱寶郎), Wen Kuo-chi (溫國智) and Chiu Lu-han (邱聿涵) to teach hotel chefs how to prepare signature Hakka dishes. A musical performance by band ZiXuan & Slow Train (黃子軒樂團) was planned for Wednesday.

Planning for the event began after HAC Minister Lee Yong-te (李永得) in September last year received an invitation from a Hakka member of the government in Mauritius, where Taiwan has no representative office. An agreement to hold the event was officially signed last month.

The notice of the event’s cancelation received on Saturday stated that the Chinese embassy in Port Louis demanded the event be canceled because it “represented the Republic of China and not the People’s Republic of China,” adding that the hotel then agreed to cancel the event to “avoid any further foreign affairs disputes.”

Lee criticized China over the threat regarding denial of entry into Mauritius, saying the planned event was to be of a purely cultural nature.

The “Hakka Cuisine Touring Workshop” led by Jerry Chiu has already visited nine countries and 16 cities since it began touring last year, Yang said, adding that the workshop is scheduled to visit cities in South America and Europe in June and August, respectively.

The event in Port Louis was to be held at a private venue and was not political in nature, Yang said, adding that the pressure on the hotel from China showed that there are no limits to what the Chinese government would do.

The poster for the workshop displayed the official titles and emblems of the HAC and the Overseas Community Affairs Council, which is what the Chinese embassy took issue with, he said.

The council would continue to operate under its official name, despite pressure from China, and would “enter [events] through front doors and walk main streets,” he said, adding that its participation in international cultural exchanges would not change.

However, this does not mean it would go around “beating gongs and drums and wantonly announcing its official nature,” Yang said.

The council would engage in cultural exchanges in a reasonable manner that would not cause trouble for those it was engaging with, he added.

China’s insistence on the event’s cancellation is tantamount to meddling with Mauritius’ internal affairs and demonstrates a lack of courtesy toward the governments of Mauritius and Taiwan, he said.

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