Children's book accused of 'Chinese propaganda' banned in Taiwan

12/03/2020 11:01 PM
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The book "Waiting for Dad to Come Home." CNA photo Dec. 3, 2020
The book "Waiting for Dad to Come Home." CNA photo Dec. 3, 2020

Taipei, Dec. 3 (CNA) A children's book that local politicians have said glorifies China's COVID-19 response has been banned in Taiwan, after its publisher was found to have not applied for permission for it to be distributed, the Ministry of Culture (MOC) said Wednesday.

As the picture book "Waiting for Dad to Come Home" (等爸爸回家) was originally published in China, its Taiwanese publisher should have applied to the MOC before it was published in Taiwan, the ministry said in a statement.

Taiwan's regulations stipulate that companies wishing to publish books in Taiwan that were initially published in China must apply to the MOC for approval. They have to include an authorization letter from the Chinese publisher and the book itself in their application.

Since the MOC did not receive an application for the book's publication, it is banned from distribution in Taiwan, effective immediately, the MOC said.

The MOC has notified the book's publisher, Taipei-based Chinese Creation Publishing Co., of the decision and the publisher has begun the process of recalling the books, the ministry said.

The company still can, however, submit an application to the MOC if it still wants to sell the book in Taiwan.

Chinese Creation Publishing Co. has not released a statement on the issue and could not be reached for comment on Thursday.

"Waiting for Dad to Come Home" is about a young Chinese boy whose father, a doctor, is sent to treat COVID-19 patients and is unable to spend the Lunar New Year holidays with him.

A page from the book. CNA Dec. 3, 2020
A page from the book. CNA Dec. 3, 2020

After the boy's mother explains to him about the virus and the importance of medical personnel in fighting the disease, the boy visits his father in the hospital.

Through a glass window, the boy tells his father that he supports him and will wait for him to come home.

Controversy surrounding the children's book was ignited on Nov. 23 when Taipei City Councilor Chen E-jun (陳怡君) released a statement saying the book is a form of Chinese propaganda.

There are pages in the book that have the words "Go China" and "Go Wuhan", and many parents have voiced concerns to her about it, said Chen, who is of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).

The two pages with the words "Go China" and "Go Wuhan". CNA photo Dec. 3, 2020
The two pages with the words "Go China" and "Go Wuhan". CNA photo Dec. 3, 2020

"This children's book highlights the fact that the Chinese government is rewriting history, burying the truth about this global health crisis and shirking responsibility for the pandemic," Chen said.

Even though Taiwan has freedom of speech and of the press, the book should not be in public libraries, she said.

DPP legislator Chen Ting-fei (陳亭妃) also criticized the book, saying that after she read it, she "could not find any meaning in it for children apart from glorifying China's COVID-19 response."

In addition to the "Go China" and "Go Wuhan" slogans, there were also drawings of Chinese military planes in the book, she said.

Pages in the book that depict military planes and medical personnel. CNA photo Dec. 3, 2020
Pages in the book that depict military planes and medical personnel. CNA photo Dec. 3, 2020
A page from the book. CNA Dec. 3, 2020
A page from the book. CNA Dec. 3, 2020

She called for Taiwanese publishers to follow the required procedures before publishing a Chinese book in Taiwan.

In response to the controversy, the Taipei Public Library and Taichung Public Library said last week that they had taken down the digital and physical copies of the book available at their locations, pending further review of its content.

On Nov. 24, Yeh Tse-shan (葉澤山), head of the Cultural Affairs Bureau of Tainan city government, told CNA that he found the book "inappropriate" after reading it.

He said that children's books should not be political, and added that he had instructed the city's public libraries to remove the 22 copies they had.

In New Taipei, where the public library had purchased 25 copies of the book, the city government's Cultural Affairs Department re-evaluated the book's content and decided to remove it from library shelves, Mayor Hou Yu-ih (侯友宜) said on Nov. 30.

After the MOC announced its decision to ban the distribution of the book, two major newspapers in Taiwan -- United Daily News and the China-friendly China Times -- criticized the ban in editorials on Thursday.

United Daily said that it is "absurd" that in Taiwan, while a person can "waltz into a bookstore" and buy books on Mao Zedong's (毛澤東) teachings and communist theories, a "deeply educational" book about a child who learns how incredible his father's work is has been banned.

The DPP is using the "failed old tricks" of the Kuomintang (KMT), the editorial said, referring to how the KMT banned books by Chinese authors during the White Terror period.

By intentionally creating a society where dissenting opinions are not tolerated, people will become carbon copies of one another, the editorial said, while adding that if banning a children's book is acceptable where does the government draw the line.

The China Times editorial slammed the ban as a form of "green terror," implying that the DPP (whose representative color is green) is regressing to White Terror-era tactics of suppression.

It quoted New Taipei city KMT councilor Yeh Yuan-chih (葉元之) as saying that when the KMT ruled Taiwan under martial law, the DPP called for it to loosen censorship controls on newspapers and books.

Yet the DPP has now closed down the pro-China CTiTV news station and banned a children's book that has an "opposing ideology" to the DPP, Yeh said.

(By Chang Jung-hsiang, Hao Hsueh-chin, Wang Yang-yu and Chiang Yi-ching)


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