Beijing refuses to bite at votes horseplay

Editorial | Mary Ma 21 Nov 2018

Who were the best leading actor and actress at the Taipei Golden Horse Film Festival and Awards this year? Who cares after the spotlight of last weekend's event was hijacked by politics.

Best documentary award winner Fu Yue's declaration of her wish that Taiwan be one day regarded as a truly independent entity has changed the rules of the game. It's unlikely that artists from the mainland would dare to appear at the "Chinese Oscars" next year.

That would be a pity for Golden Horse committee chairman and director Ang Lee, who did his best to keep politics out of the annual award ceremony.

While Fu's pro-independence tilt surely caught Lee and everyone at the Sun Yat Sen Memorial Hall by surprise, it wasn't accidental.

The documentary for which Fu won was about the 2014 Sunflower Movement, protesting against the passage of the Cross-Strait Service Trade Agreement by the then-ruling Kuomintang in the Legislative Yuan. Two years later, Tsai Ing-wen, of the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party, won the 2016 general election to become president.

Local elections will be held across Taiwan on Saturday, during which voters will elect mayors, magistrates, local councillors, municipal heads and village chiefs.

It's a stringent test of Tsai's presidency, as the local elections are generally viewed as a prelude to the presidential election in 2020. Will Tsai be able to beat back the KMT to win herself a second term in two years' time? The weekend elections may serve as a pointer.

The green camp is hoping that Fu's public appeal at the ceremony will give its candidates new energy so they can deal a blow to the KMT's campaign on new economic prospects that Tsai's administration has been struggling to live up to in the face of Beijing's relentless clampdown for the past two years.

Young voters had turned out in great numbers to vote down the KMT in favor of Tsai in 2016, so it would be in the DPP's interest to see a similarly large turnout on Saturday - as anything less would work to the KMT's advantage.

Fu's public outcry may have some effect as it is the most popular entertainment program in Taiwan. That effect would magnify if Beijing reacts to it with anger and threats.

Former best actor winner Tu Men, from the mainland, hit back by declaring the island as "Taiwan, China," while celebrated Chinese-born actress Gong Li, now a Singaporean, refused to go onstage.

Beijing showed unusual restraint apart from stepping up censorship of the event at home.

Apparently, the mainland is keeping its cool to avoid stimulating a large turnout of young voters. It has learned from the past that drowning the island in rhetoric and missile exercises would damage the KMT's chances, tilting the elections in Tsai's party's favor.

Oh, incidentally, for the record - the best leading actor and actress of the Golden Horse Awards this year were Xu Zheng, for his role in Dying to Serve, and Hsieh Ying-xuan, for her role in Dear Ex.

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