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HK director quits Taiwan film awards jury in apparent China boycott

2019/09/19 21:25:09

Johnnie To (left) and Wang Toon (right)

Taipei, Sept. 19 (CNA) Hong Kong film director Johnnie To (杜琪峯) has resigned as head of the jury for the 56th Golden Horse Awards due to previously signed film production contractual obligations, the Taipei Golden Horse Film Festival Executive Committee said in a notice Thursday.

To's resignation came after a boycott by Beijing led to the pullout of Chinese and Hong Kong films and personnel from this year's Golden Horse Film Festival and Awards and sparked speculations in the media about China's gross interference in Taiwan affairs behind the scenes.

However, the festival committee declined to comment on the speculations, saying they can only respond to the content of To's resignation letter.

To said he was resigning mainly because of the constraints of film production contracts he had already signed, according to the committee.

He also apologized for any inconvenience caused by his resignation, the committee said, adding that its chairman Ang Lee (李安) had expressed understanding for To's situation and wished him success with his new productions.

The vacancy left by To will be filled by Taiwanese director Wang Toon (王童), the recipient of this year's Golden Horse Award for Lifetime Achievement, the committee said.

Wang is a two-time winner of the Golden Horse Award for Best Director, Best Art Direction and Best Costume Design.

The nominees for this year's Golden Horse Awards will be announced on Oct. 1, and the awards ceremony will take place on Nov. 23.

Ma Xiaoguang (馬曉光), a spokesperson with the China's State Council Taiwan Affairs Office, said on Sept. 11 that Taiwan's Democratic Progressive Party and "Taiwan independence" forces were to be blamed for the withdrawal of Chinese participants from the 2019 Golden Horse Film Festival.

Some of political forces in Taiwan have been using cross-strait events to spread "Taiwan independence" propaganda, thus undermining cross-strait exchanges, Ma said.

Commenting on the issue, Chen Ming-Chi (陳明祺), deputy head of Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council (MAC), said To's decision to resign as chairman of the Golden Horse Awards jury was deeply regrettable.

Every year, filmmakers and experts from around the world participate in the jury selection process for the Golden Horse Awards, which are the most prestigious and time-honored film awards in Chinese language cinema, Chen said.

Mainland China should stop interfering in cross-strait cultural exchanges and allow film casts and crews from both sides of the strait and elsewhere to enjoy the fruits of their creativity through the Golden Horse Film Festival and Awards, Chen said.

The issue stemmed from Beijing's decision to halt cross-strait exchanges in several areas through actions that included banning individual travel to Taiwan by its citizens from 47 cities.

Chen said that solo travel to Taiwan by Chinese visitors was an important channel for promoting mutual exchanges and understanding between the two sides, and he hoped the China government would soon lift the travel ban.

(By Hung Chien-lun, Miao Zong-han and Evelyn Kao)
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