Sunday, September 20, 2009

Kaohsiung to Screen Uighur Leader Bioflick despite Chinese Pressure

In case you ever wondered where those up-to-date hair styles come from, check out the heads... a famous international journalist spotted this for me as we walked in a small town near Taichung.

Ah, AFP. It had a moment in the sun with several excellent and very balanced pieces recently -- causing much wondering email to flit between myself and others who watch the international media -- and now it has reverted to form. The AFP report on the decision of the Kaohsiung Film Festival to screen 10 Conditions of Love despite pressure from China and its servants in Taiwan...note how the AFP report consists entirely of Beijing-centric statements, except for a section lower down with remarks from Kaoshiung Mayor Chen Chu:
Taiwan's second-largest city on Sunday said it will show a controversial documentary about exiled Uighur leader Rebiya Kadeer in the coming days despite objections by China.

Kaohsiung, a stronghold of the pro-independence opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), was planning to screen the biopic at the Kaohsiung film festival in October but has moved the screening forward.

The China Times newspaper here quoted hotels in the southern city as saying they'd had thousands of cancellations from mainland tourists after Chinese authorities instructed tour operators to stay away temporarily from the city.

Beijing, which has labelled Kadeer a "criminal" and accused her of inciting ethnic violence in China's far-west Xinjiang region in July that led to nearly 200 deaths, warned the Kaohsiung authorities not to harm cross-strait relations.
Pro-Beijing media formulae abound....

**AFP cites the pro-KMT China Times without informing readers that it is pro-KMT, and then repeats what it says without caveats or alternate points of view. The Taipei Times, more balanced, posted both sides of the claim that the cancellations were the result of screening the film yesterday and again today, the other side saying:
According to Lin Kun-shan (林崑山), the chief of the city’s tourism bureau, however, the occupancy rate of hotels has dropped nationwide because of the recession and the devastation wrought by Typhoon Morakot.

“From January to August this year, the rate declined by 10 percent in Taipei City and Hualien County compared with the same period last year. In Kaoshiung City, it dropped by between 3 percent and 5 percent,” Lin said.
**We are told what Beijing thinks of Kadeer, but not what Kadeer thinks of Beijing. No bias there!

**"...independence from China":

Chen, a top official of the DPP, which favours formal independence from China, tried to play down the significance of the film about Kadeer, called "The 10 Conditions of Love".

The DPP favors independence, period. It doesn't believe Taiwan is part of China (it isn't).

**The Dalai Lama strains ties:
Ties between Taiwan and China, which have improved markedly since the Beijing-friendly government of President Ma Ying-jeou took office last year, looked fragile again as the Dalai Lama's visit strained the relationship.
Here the AFP reporter simply regurgitates the Beijing line that the DL was bad for "relations" between "Taiwan" and "China." Those of us here on the Beautiful Island know that Taiwan has no relations with China -- the KMT has relations with the CCP, and the DL's visit had no effect on those (as the KMT's eager service to Beijing on the Kadeer biopic shows). There were a few delays of visits by emissaries just for show, but the sell-out goes on apace, and really major stuff, the MOU that will permit Beijing to hollow out our financial industry like a gourd, is on track for October, with the ECFA a couple of months behind. The DL had zero effect on that.

Once again, the "tension" only happens in the media. In the real world there is no tension between the CCP and the KMT, just political theatre.

Really, why does AFP even bother to have media reps out here? I feel sorry for the good people of France having to read Xinhua twice every day....

The Foreigner had a good spot today on this topic, writing:
From Taiwan's China Post:

. . . ruling Kuomintang (KMT) Deputy Secretary-General Chang Jung-kung, who handles the party's ties with China, warned [the mayor of the southern Taiwanese city of Kaohsiung] of the risks of screening [a film about Chinese Uigher leader, Rebiya Kadeer].

He said the mayor should give top priority to the public interest of her city, and should “think carefully” if the move affects Kaohsiung's [influx of Chinese tourists].

Mr. Deputy Secretary-General, free speech IS the public interest of Kaohsiung. And Taiwan too...
But as the Taipei Times pointed out, while the KMT itself might be leaping to do Beijing's bidding, the Executive Yuan commendably said the government would not interfere, as there is free speech in Taiwan.

UPDATE: Some excellent comments below. I think it is a good idea to move the screening -- we made our political point, and there is an election soon....
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Anonymous said...

AFP articles are being written by someone at the China Times or someone with a strong China Times connection. Or someone that follows the China Times religiously. When the AFP reported on Kaohsiung and the Uighur documentary, only the China Times had covered it and no other non-China Times group media had reports out yet (the number was also quite suspect... where did the 3000 number come from?) You can continue commenting on the AFP, but if I'm correct, whoever is there is probably ideologically invested in pro-Blueness. It's not incompetence that I think maybe you have some hope of correcting.

Marc said...

AFP’s mission is to report events, free of “all influences or considerations likely to impair the exactitude” of its news.

From Louette's editorial in the latest AFP newsletter comes this slick piece of copy:

"The world is changing and so is Agence France-Presse, so that it can give an ever better service to its clients. Our agency dates back to 1835, but it has never had to confront an upheaval such as the Internet era. What is not changing is our devotion to facts, a near religion, an age-old tradition that must never be considered out of date. The agency has a passion for getting it right, preparing a sourced and checked story and delivering it as quickly as possible. But what is happening to AFP is part of an even bigger revolution..."

There is no editorial contact email address for AFP as far as I can tell on the AFP website.

I'm working on it...

Tim Maddog said...

Great job, Michael.

Tim Maddog

Raj said...

Shouldn't the title be "Kaoshiung drops film from festival due to Chinese pressure"?

Because it's going to be shown weeks before the festival proper. If it had really resisted Chinese pressure it would have been shown alongside all the other films.

Taiwan Echo said...

Kaoshiung Folds under China's Pressure to Kick Rebiya's Film out of the Festival

Thomas said...

I am torn. While I understand the arguments of those who say that Kaohsiung and Chen Chu caved to Chinese pressure, I also can understand Chen's decision.

One of the hardest problems for the DPP to overcome right now is the endless tarring of its reputation by the KMT and foreign KMT sympathizers. It is not fair for the greens to be tarred as troublemakers simply for showing a film or standing up for what they believe in. But this tarring will be much worse if Chen makes no compromises and may be defused (or at least robbed of much of its bang) if she makes the right sort of less nefarious compromises.

I think of it this way. The Ma administration, the KMT bigwigs and Beijing certainly would all prefer that the film not be shown at all. And they would simultaneously love to use the showing of the film to their political advantage.

For the Chen, showing the film under the letterhead of the Kaohsiung Film Festival, even three weeks in advance, is therefore still an act of defiance that will resonate with most greens. And this act of defiance has been picked up by the overseas media. In this sense, the film has already served much of its purpose indicating that, in Taiwan, things are possible that are not possible in China. This will become more apparent when the film actually is screened and Beijing's protests remain unheeded.

Additionally, by showing the film three weeks in advance, Chen Chu and the greens can tell Taiwanese and the world that they have compromised. This makes it much harder for the Ma administration, the KMT bigwigs and Beijing to effectively criticize Chen and the greens. It also has the potential to earn points among light blues and greens in Taiwan if Chen's visit to China to promote the World Games earlier this year is anything to go by.

So this may be a very smart political move by Chen Chu. She once again comes out looking like a Taiwan-focused politician who has wrestled with Beijing and come out of the tussle relatively unscathed. She is also a respected administrator.

In short, she seems precisely to be what the electorate might want from the greens.

So I ask you, is this compromise such a catastrophe? Would it not be better for Taiwanese to see in Chen a positive example -- something they are not getting from their current president? And, for the DPP, isn't rediscovering such leaders, and providing examples to new ones, more important at the moment than resolutely insisting that the movie be shown three weeks later? So, to Raj and Echo Taiwan, I would say that we should look at the big picture.

The DPP would be in a much better position if more of its politicians knew how to put on such shows.

Dwayne Elizondo said...

I'm all for free speech, but I think there is more to this story that needs to be exposed. I am not following it closely enough to be the person to do the research, but from what I've read, she did take money from NED (Soro's foundation), so the PRC may have something to bitch about. I am not sticking up for the ChiComs, but I think anything associated with Soros (or Kissinger or Brzezinski) must be viewed with suspicion.


Add a few other quirky, unrelated links:

1. Some musical & video inspiration can be found around the 1:55 mark of this youtube.

2. The Lafayette scandal may be in the news again. According to this article the Clearwater Affair trail starts today in France. (fyi, if you don't know, Clearwater is a Luxembourg bank tied into the Lafayette frigate/KMT bribery scandal.

3. This one is really weird and maybe not worth linking to, but here goes anyway... As I was viewing this Tibetan funeral pictorial, I thought to myself CCP->KMT->TWN. (warning - graphic, probably not safe for kids).

Adam said...

It's interesting how the various pieces on this story either frame it as Kaohsiung standing up to China by showing the films, or Kaohsiung caving in to China by not showing the films during the film festival, but instead showing them earlier.

Anonymous said...

Wait, why is anyone interpreting that Kaohsiung compromised? Please don't repeat that propaganda.

That one documentary is now getting four showings with immense publicity and news. What Kaohsiung is doing is saying, hey look, you are trying to boycott us and force us to violate our principles. We are going to show it NOW and all the pressure you want to bear on us will be of no use because by that time, it will have already been done.

Kaohsiung just GUARANTEED that the the movie will be shown! It can't be changed! Ladies and gents, come on. We don't eat up news straight here.

readin said...

It seems Chen could have compromised while getting bigger bang for the buck.

Instead of keeping the film as part of the festival, it could have been withdrawn and shown independently at the same time with lots of publicity and free tickets. The venue and pre-show discussion could have highlighted why the show had been yanked, the importance of freedom of speech, and the fact that it could be shown because of Taiwan's independence from China - and all of this for an audience with connections in film and other media industries.

The only argument I can see going the other way is that keeping the name accolade "Kaohsiung Film Festival" was important for the film and for Kaohsiung. Unfortunately it probably doesn't have much benefit for Taiwan as a whole since most people don't know Kaohsiung is in Taiwan.

But, since it is part of the festival and since most participants won't arrive 3 weeks early, it would certainly be a worthwhile use of tax money to distributed free dvd copies of the movies to attendees.

Haitien said...

In a free society one would think that you are supposed to fight back against viewpoints you don't agree with by utilizing free speech yourself to make your viewpoint known. People who disagree with the content of the film in question are free to make their disagreement and rationale for disagreement known, and engage in rational debate in the public sphere. They can even make their own film or documentary to show why this film is wrong. (Witness the uproar in the US over films concerning topics such as Iraq or climate change).

But this isn't what's happening here. We've set a very dangerous precedent here that speech can be muzzled if one disagrees with it or finds it inconvenient. While I understand why they might have made this decision, I hope the city of Kaohsiung reconsiders what it is doing by allowing political intervention in the content of the film festival.

readin said...

I checked out the list of films at the festival via Taiwan Echo's link. I have more sympathy for Chen's decision to compromise now. The festival is showing a number what appear to be pro-Taiwan films such as "Prince of Tears", "Formosa Dream, Disrupted", "Taiwan Identity", and "A Burning Mission: Rescue the Political Prisoners of Taiwan", as well as some other films that will help educate people about Taiwan and its history. Getting some Chinese to see these films might prove more useful than keeping them away for the sake of a Uighur film.

readin said...

Michael Turton responds to this wording, "Chen, a top official of the DPP, which favours formal independence from China, tried to play down the significance of the film about Kadeer, called "The 10 Conditions of Love" by complaining that,
"The DPP favors independence, period. It doesn't believe Taiwan is part of China (it isn't)."

However, I believe his cure is worse than the disease. Taiwan is independent. How then can the DPP want independence? Rather, the DPP wants that independence formalized in Taiwan's law and in international treaties and organizations. Were the wording change to what Turton seems to be suggesting, "Chen, a top official of the DPP, which favours independence from China", the implication would that Taiwan does not currently have indepence at all, neither in fact or in formal documents, and that would be horribly misleading. Most readers, ignorant as they are of Taiwan's situation, would come away with the impression that Taiwan is currently under the rule of the CPC and that Chen wants to change the status quo. Chen doesn't want to change the status quo, he simply wants people to stop lying about the status quo.

Richard said...

I think much of the foreign media is missing the bigger picture of this story, which is China's growing influence on Taiwan even without the two being unified. There was a WSJ article when this story first sparked whose first line mentioned China's influence on Taiwan via its recent economic power it has obtained over Taiwan. This is just a precursor of things to come under an ECFA.