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Winning Taiwanese director calls for independence at the Chinese Oscars

Director Fu Yue (left) delivers her award remark at the Golden Horse Awards. Screen capture image.

“I really hope one day our country will be regarded as an independent entity. This is my biggest wish as a Taiwanese.” With those words, spoken onstage amid tears at the Golden Horse Film Festival and Awards on November 17, Taiwanese filmmaker Fu Yue caused a firestorm about her country's political status, one that provoked reactions from prominent political figures and other celebrities from Chinese speaking communities in Taiwan, Hong Kong and mainland China.

Her film “Our Youth in Taiwan”, an account of two students who took part in the 2014 Sunflower Movement, won Best Documentary in what is commonly called the “Chinese Oscars” — a traditional award's ceremony that takes place in Taiwan every year since 1962, and where films from the People's Republic of China regularly compete.

Although a loud cheer followed her acceptance speech, some were upset with Fu's pro-Taiwan independence remark and took the chance to protest too. Chinese actress and jury chair Gong Li refused to present the award for Best Feature film; as mainland actor Tu Men handed over the award for best actress onstage, he said that he was honored to be present in “Taiwan, China”, and that he felt like he was part of “one big family on both sides of the strait”.

Reports say that many mainland Chinese award attendees departed early, allegedly in order to avoid been seen in the post-award party.

Many are worried that the incident could prompt China to boycott the Golden Horse Awards from now on, which could mean its end. Such worries are not baseless. Chinese President Xi Jinping has spoken firmly against Taiwan's independence on many different occasions since Tsai Ing-wen and her independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) won the Taiwanese presidential elections in 2016. In his speech to the 19th Party Congress in 2017, he said:

We have firm will, full confidence, and sufficient capability to defeat any form of secession plot by Taiwan. We will never allow any person, any organization, or any political party to split any part of the Chinese territory from China at any time or in any form.

Nine-dash-line poster via China Daily.

Not surprisingly, almost immediately after Fu received her award on Sunday, Beijing cut off live coverage of the event on both TV and internet live-streaming platforms. Chinese CPP-affiliated media, including the China Daily and the Central Communist Youth League, reacted by posting a patriotic poster — which says “China can't be less”, alongside a map featuring China, the nine-dash-line, and Taiwan — on their social media pages. Their posts have received many positive responses from a number of celebrities from mainland China, Taiwan and Hong Kong over the past days.

Outside China’s great firewall, many netizens flooded Fu Yue’s Facebook page with angry comments. The young film director addressed them calmly and expressed hope that genuine communication emerge from the storm. Also on her Facebook page, she said:

對於許多網友(大部分來自中國)在我的臉書上寫下的上萬則回應,其中包括許多怒罵和攻擊,其實我看完並不特別憤怒或難過。
許多媒體昨晚報導《我們的青春,在台灣》是一部「太陽花學運」紀錄片。但其實318運動只是這部片的一部分,片名中的「我們」,指的是一位台灣學生、一位中國學生,和我自己。這部片不只是在記錄我們一起經歷的台灣大大小小社會運動的過程。我最初的構想,其實是想探究:在台灣國內,及台灣與中國、香港之間,懷抱不同國族認同、具有不同政治立場的年輕世代,是否能夠透過對話,來理解彼此的立場與差異,甚至共同合作?…昨晚到今天,有些朋友說:「如今這些網友的留言,看來對妳的創作初衷是最大的諷刺。原本想對話的,現在卻還是化為上萬則咒罵的留言。」
但我不是這樣看的。
中國與台灣之間的公民社會存在著大量的誤解與仇恨,這是長期累積下來的事實。我的創作就是想處理這個問題。如今這個場面,不見得是結果,而或許能是另一場對話的開始。
昨晚頒獎典禮後,在頒獎台上有部分中國領獎、頒獎者接續講出「中國台灣」、「兩岸一家親」等言論。我尊重,但當然不能同意。
我可以理解他們當中許多人做出的反應,或許是出於無奈與恐懼。但如果他們當中有人心中真是那樣想的,我也想誠摯地邀請他們,以及灌入我臉書留言的中國網友們,有機會的話,一起來看看這部作品。
我在頒獎典禮上的發言,並不是「一時激動」,更不像部分中國網友所說的「受到民進黨政府的指使」。這是我自己一直以來就很想為這部作品所說的話。
有些網友說:「從此之後妳不用混了,更不用想踏足中國電影界」。對於日後或許無法再和許多優秀的中國電影工作者交流,我當然也有遺憾。但對於我日後職業生涯所可能面臨的一切後果,我願意承擔,且並不後悔。
另有部分評論說:「講話要看場合!妳個人的自私毀了金馬獎多年來的經營,以後中國政府不可能再讓中國電影踏足金馬」。對於這點,我想說的是:我在頒獎典禮上講的話,其實也是我這部作品中的部分主題,這不是一句「政治歸政治,藝術歸藝術」可以迴避,因為這部片的拍攝對象本身就是政治。我很感謝金馬奬的評審們讓這部作品得獎。作為導演,我必須為我的作品說話,來回應他們的勇氣。

In response to many netizens (majority from mainland China) leaving thousands of comments with name-calling and personal attacks, I am actually neither angry nor upset.

Many media outlets reported that “Our youth in Taiwan” is a documentary about the Sunflower Movement, but it is only one of the themes. The “Our” in the film title refers to a Taiwan student, a mainland Chinese student and myself. It not only recounts what we had gone through in the social movement. My idea from the very beginning was to explore whether it was possible for young people from Taiwan, Hong Kong and China to have dialogue and to develop mutual understanding of their national identities and political stands so that they can find ways to work together?… Since last night, many friends said: “the online comments are mocking your original intention. While you wanted to open a dialogue, you're now receiving thousands of name-calling comments”

However, I don’t see it this way.

The civil societies in China and Taiwan have developed a lot of misunderstanding and hatred for each other over the past decades. I want to address the problem through my work. The current situation should not be viewed as the end but as the beginning of another round of conversation.

Last night, during and after the awards, some presenters and winners kept saying “Taiwan, China” and “one big family across the straits”. I respect their view, but I can’t agree.

I can understand that some of them said it because they didn’t have a choice, or out of fear. For those who genuinely believe in what they've said, I sincerely invite them, as well as those mainland Chinese netizens who flooded my Facebook, to watch my film when they have a chance.

My speech is not an emotional outburst and definitely not “instructed by the Democratic Progressive Party”, as suggested by some mainland Chinese netizens. This is what I wanted to say about this documentary.

Some netizens have said: “From now on, you have no place in the film industry and can never step foot onto the China movie sector.” Of course, it's a pity that I may lose the opportunity to exchange with so many excellent filmmakers from China, but I am willing to bear the consequences without any regrets.

Others have said: “You have to think about what is appropriate for the occasion. Your selfishness has ruined the Golden Horse Awards, in the future the Chinese government might not allow mainland Chinese films to compete.” My response to this is that — what I said during the award is related to the theme of my film. The saying of “politics is politics, art is art” cannot circumvent the film’s subject matter, which is political. I am thankful to the juries of the Golden Horse Award and, as the director of the film, I have to speak out for my work as a response to their courage.

In Taiwan, the incident has also provoked responses, including of Taiwan's own president Tsai Ing-wen, who posted on Facebook on November 18:

我以昨天的金馬獎為榮,它突顯台灣之所以不同於中國,就在於我們的自由與多元,而這正是所有藝術創作能夠盡情奔放的樂土。
金馬獎就是秉持這樣的精神。我們歡迎所有電影工作者來台灣交流工作,在這裡不會有人因為不同言論就消失或被消音,我們也沒有會被網路屏蔽的敏感詞。這就是台灣。但我們也希望這些來到台灣的客人在享受自由的空氣之餘,也能尊重台灣人民的想法。

I am proud of last night’s Golden Horse Awards ceremony. It shows that the difference between Taiwan and China is that we [in Taiwan] are free and diverse. This is a giving land when it comes to arts and creative work. The Golden Horse Awards reflects our spirit. We welcome all filmmakers to come to Taiwan for exchange and work. Here, people won’t be disappeared or silenced because they hold different views. We don’t filter away sensitive words said online. This is Taiwan. We hope that the guests coming to Taiwan and enjoying the freedom here are able to respect Taiwanese's views.

Taiwan has been a de-facto independent state since 1949, when the Kuomingtang fled to the island and established a government in exile after being defeated by Chinese Communist Party in the Chinese Civil War. However, the People's Republic of China maintains the “One China Policy”. Since the Taiwan presidential elections in 2016, Beijing has been redoubling economic and diplomatic pressure as well as making military threats to Taiwan.

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