Taiwanese star forced to publicly support 'one China' policy

Show will be ditched in China if Wu Mu-hsuen doesn't support Beijing's territorial claim on democratic Taiwan.
By Jenny Tang for RFA Mandarin
2024.05.10
Taiwanese star forced to publicly support 'one China' policy Taiwanese TV and movie star Wu Mu-hsuen in an undated photo.
mumu92013 via Facebook

Taiwanese TV and movie actor Wu Mu-hsuen was recently forced to sign a pledge to support China's territorial claim on democratic Taiwan, or the show she had just finished filming would be ditched, according to multiple local media reports.

Wu was approached by the film crew after wrapping up filming of the online drama "Hey! Come a bit closer" in China last year, and told to sign the agreement or the show would never be aired, her agent Chen Hsiao-chih told several Taiwanese media outlets in recent days.

According to Wu's agent, the practice is now commonplace when Taiwanese artists work in China, and plenty of other stars have been forced to sign agreements pledging that Taiwan is "a part of China," and that there can be no independence for the island, according to reports in the island’s Central News Agency, Liberty Times and TVBS.

Taiwan has never been ruled by the Chinese Communist Party, nor formed part of the 74-year-old People’s Republic of China, and most of its 23 million people have no wish to give up their sovereignty or democratic way of life to be ruled by China, according to multiple public opinion polls in recent years.

The news about the agreements has highlighted concerns over China's "soft power" influence over Taiwan, as Beijing vows to achieve "peaceful unification" with the island through propaganda and economic pressures.

Signing agreements

A former film and television industry worker who gave only the surname Chen for fear of reprisals said such requests are common, and don't typically come from Chinese officials, but from the production team of the show that Taiwanese artists are working on.

"The Chinese producers have put a lot of money into filming these shows, and they're afraid that if the artist gets into trouble after filming is done, the whole drama will be thrown out [by ruling Chinese Communist Party censors]," Chen told RFA Mandarin in an interview on May 9. "So they ask the artists to make a commitment in that regard."

He said all artists, including Chinese nationals, are asked to sign commitments to refrain from drugs or pornography or anything else that could endanger the reputation of the show.

Taiwanese TV and movie star Wu Mu-hsuen in an undated photo. (mumu92013 via Facebook)
Taiwanese TV and movie star Wu Mu-hsuen in an undated photo. (mumu92013 via Facebook)

The version of the agreements handed to Taiwanese artists also includes a commitment to support Beijing's claim on China, or to refrain from supporting independence for Taiwan, Chen said, adding that anyone who doesn't comply will likely be added to a Chinese government blacklist, which means the huge and lucrative Chinese market is closed to them.

"Artists need to be very clear about this — it's unreasonable to criticize them and to still want to make money from them," Chen said, adding that most artists "aren't very political," and are willing to comply.

"The Chinese market is so big, that they don't see the need to offend people just to make a fuss about something," Chen said. 

He said the deals have become more ubiquitous with the rise in tensions across the Taiwan Strait that followed the landslide victory of ruling Democratic Progressive Party President Tsai Ing-wen in 2016.

'Forced to take sides'

While it has refused to rule out invading Taiwan by military force, Beijing vowed in January to step up its efforts to achieve "peaceful unification" with the island after Taiwanese voters in January elected Beijing's least favorite candidate Lai Ching-te — Tsai's right-hand man — as their next president.

"Peaceful unification" refers to the Chinese Communist Party's attempts to bring the island under its control through propaganda, threats and infiltration rather than armed invasion, analysts have told RFA in recent interviews.

"They wouldn't be asking artists to sign such deals if the leaders on both sides of the Taiwan Strait were in a state of harmony," Chen said. "When there are high-level political tensions, then people further down are unlucky enough to be forced to take sides."

An employee of Taiwan's terrestrial broadcaster TTV who asked to be identified only by the surname Wang said she, too, would steer clear of hiring people with known political views to make entertainment shows.

"We're a purely commercial TV station with no political affiliation, so we would definitely consider when filming TV shows and movies whether someone we hire has a specific political orientation," Wang said. "We would avoid hiring politicians."

"While professional criteria are given priority, we would still be concerned if the political overtones were too strong," she said.

She said some shows that do showcase political themes simply won't sell in the heavily restricted Chinese market.

"There are a lot of people in the film and TV industry who are unable to sell their shows or movies due to political leanings," Wang said. 

"But it's a choice — some see the Chinese market as very important, so won't go anywhere near politics, while others give politics top priority," she said.

Translated by Luisetta Mudie. Edited by Roseanne Gerin.

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COMMENTS

O-o
May 14, 2024 07:59 PM

Be careful. It’s normal according to PR China’s rules. Look at Hong Kong