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Teenage star loses endorsement deal over ROC flag controversy (update)

2016/01/14 20:51:50

From the Twitter page of South Kroea's MBC TV station

Taipei, Jan. 14 (CNA) Tzuyu (周子瑜), the only Taiwanese member of South Korean girl group Twice, has lost a deal for the endorsement of a smartphone produced by the Chinese company Huawei, in a controversy involving her display of the Republic of China (Taiwan) flag on a television show, South Korean media reported Thursday.

As of Jan. 12, cellular carrier LG Uplus, which markets the Huawei Y6 phone in South Korea, had suspended all cooperation with Tzuyu and her management company on Huawei products, the South Korean newspaper the Chosun Ilbo reported, citing a Huawei executive.

●Jan. 16: Teenage star's apology fuels controversy over ROC flag

The paper cited Glory Zhang, chief marketing officer of Huawei's consumer business group, as saying in a microblog on Jan. 12 that Huawei had strongly advised LG Uplus to suspend its cooperation with Tzuyu because the star's "recent remarks had seriously hurt the feelings of the Chinese people."

CNA has been unable to identify the controversial "recent remarks" allegedly made by Tzuyu.

On Wednesday, Tzuyu's management company JYP Entertainment issued a statement saying it "deeply regretted" that false rumors were being spread online about the star.

As a "cultural enterprise," JYP Entertainment said, it has never engaged in any political action or made any political comments regarding China.

The company said, however, that it had decided to temporarily cancel all of Tzuyu's upcoming performances and activities in China until the rumors could be clarified.

The controversy arose after Tzuyu, 16, recently appeared on the South Korean variety show "My Little Television" holding the flag of the Republic of China.

In Taiwan, some media, particularly Sanlih E-Television, commended her for displaying Taiwan's national flag on the show.

Tzuyu's display of the flag "broke the glass hearts" of the Chinese people, the media reports said, quoting online posts by Taiwan nationals.

Tzuyu was criticized, however, by Taiwanese singer Huang An (黃安), who is based in China and has gained an online following there partly because of his strong stance against Taiwan independence.

Huang questioned why Tzuyu had not commented on the Taiwanese media reports, and referred to her as a supporter of Taiwan independence.

In a microblog on Sina Weibo, Huang urged his fans to stand against "anyone endorsed by Taiwanese independence supporters."

Since then, social media sites in China and elsewhere in Asia have been flooded with hate comments against Tzuyu and Twice, while other netizens have been defending Tzuyu, saying she has done nothing wrong.

"I feel so bad for Tzuyu," Facebook user Carlos German Alvarado wrote. "I really can't recall the last time an idol got this amount of hate and was trapped in an extremely sh*tty situation for literally doing nothing wrong."

Sixteen-year-old Tzuyu, whose real name is Chou Tzu-yu, became a member of Twice last year after she won a South Korean TV talent show, and her popularity has soared since then.

Since the row over her display of the ROC flag, support for her has been growing in Taiwan.

Taiwan's ruling Kuomintang (KMT) on Thursday posted a photo of the national flag on its Facebook page, with the comment, "Support the national flag, support Chou Tzu-yu."

Lin Yi-hua (林奕華), chief of the KMT's Culture and Communications Committee, said in a statement that the ROC's existence cannot be denied and the KMT is not only supporting the singer, but is also urging the Chinese people to take a rational view of the matter and not let politics affect the entertainment sector.

The KMT also disagrees with Huang An's actions and hopes he will stop that behavior, Lin said.

(By Christie Chen)