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Artists want new Ministry of Culture to 'serve,' not 'lead'

2012/05/21 20:21:34

Taipei, May 21 (CNA) People from artistic and cultural circles are hoping that Taiwan's new Ministry of Culture can "serve" the cultural sector and wage its influence over China.

Local film director Lee Hsing, who attended the ministry's inauguration ceremony Monday, said he hoped cultural officials, including Minister Lung Ying-tai, would "serve" instead of "lead" the cultural sector.

He said the establishment of the Ministry of Culture, upgraded from its predecessor the Council for Cultural Affairs, was a "hard-earned" achievement that artists had been calling for since as early as 1970.

"The film industry finally has a home," said veteran director Chu Yen-ping, who said he hoped the new ministry would place more emphasis on Taiwanese films and promote them not only to China, but in Southeast Asia and other Asian countries.

Regulating and promoting the local film industry was previously the responsibility of the Government Information Office, and those responsibilities have now been transferred to the new ministry.

Meanwhile, Peking opera diva Wei Hai-min said she hoped Taiwan could wage its cultural influence over China now that the Ministry of Culture has been born.

"Taiwan is small but free," said Wei, adding that art creation is only possible under an "air of freedom" and that Taiwan should influence China in this respect.

Writer Guan Guan, meanwhile, also urged Taiwan to develop its soft power, saying that culture is the best weapon against China's military power.

Lung, the country's first culture minister, said Monday that her agency's top priorities include getting the private sector involved in cultural work and reviewing its subsidy mechanism for art groups and companies to make sure that every penny counts.

Though Lung had said that her ministry would vie for a NT$20 billion (US$676.48 million) budget next year, she admitted that it has been given a less-than-expected NT$16.08 billion in funding and would strive for more in the future.

Meanwhile, in response to a protest outside of the ministry on Monday, Lung said that "this is an open and democratic society" and that she held an open attitude toward different opinions.

Wang Chi-san, managing director of a company responsible for the stage machinery of a controversial musical produced in October by the Council for Cultural Affairs, protested that his company had yet to be paid for its work.

He said council officials have told him that the money cannot be paid because the case has entered judicial proceedings.

The musical "Dreamer" was produced and presented for two nights in October at a cost of over NT$215 million, as part of Republic of China centennial celebrations. Emile Sheng, former head of the council, has been criticized for the musical's high price tag.

Opposition lawmakers have accused Sheng of fixing the tender for the production to favor people close to the president, charges Sheng has vigorously denied.

(By Christie Chen)