China pressured Italian book fair over use of 'Taiwan': lawmaker

03/24/2022 04:29 PM
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Illustrator Cho Pei-hsin
Illustrator Cho Pei-hsin's solo exhibit at the Bologna Children's Book Fair. Image taken from: facebook.com/taipeibookfairfoundation

Taipei, March 24 (CNA) A Taiwanese legislator claimed Thursday that organizers of the Bologna Children's Book Fair in Italy faced demands from Chinese diplomats to label works by Taiwanese illustrator Cho Pei-hsin (卓霈欣) as coming from "Taiwan, China."

Lawmaker Huang Kuo-shu (黃國書) revealed details of the dispute during a legislative hearing on Thursday, which was attended by officials from the Ministry of Culture.

Cho's work was on display at the book fair, which is being held from Monday to Thursday this week, after winning the International Award for Illustration at last year's edition.

According to Huang, Chinese diplomats contacted local government officials in Bologna after the start of the exhibition to demand that Cho's works be described as coming from "Taiwan, China," instead of "Taiwan."

"The event organizers felt helpless - they didn't want to do it. And so their compromise was to not list any country name at all. No Taiwan, and no China," Huang said.

Huang warned, however, that the episode showed China was expanding its exercise of "political pressure" on Taiwan from sporting events into arts and culture, urging the ministry to have plans for responding to such incidents in the future.

An exhibit featuring the work of Taiwanese artists at the Bologna Children
An exhibit featuring the work of Taiwanese artists at the Bologna Children's Book Fair. Image taken from: facebook.com/taipeibookfairfoundation

In response, Deputy Culture Minister Lee Ching-hwi (李靜慧) said that according to Taiwan's representative office in Italy, the Chinese officials likely took notice of Cho's solo exhibit due to its prominent location near the entrance of the book fair.

The organizers thought the officials' demand was "unreasonable," but the leader of the local government in Bologna asked them to comply, and so they had to come up with a compromise, Lee said.

As a result, they chose to remove the country names not only on Cho's exhibit but also on those of other past winners of the International Award for Illustration, she added.

An image from "Crown Shyness," which was awarded the International Award for Illustration at the 2021 Bologna Children
An image from "Crown Shyness," which was awarded the International Award for Illustration at the 2021 Bologna Children's Book Festival. Image courtesy of Cho Pei-hsin

According to Lee, Taiwan's culture and foreign affairs ministries have since contacted local government officials in Bologna and members of the Italian Parliament to make Taiwan's position known.

Cho, who is currently based in London, describes herself as a visual storyteller with a focus on illustration and animation.

Her work has appeared in numerous animation festivals in Europe and Asia, as well as in publications such as The New York Times and The New Yorker.

An image from "Crown Shyness," which was awarded the International Award for Illustration at the 2021 Bologna Children
An image from "Crown Shyness," which was awarded the International Award for Illustration at the 2021 Bologna Children's Book Festival. Image courtesy of Cho Pei-hsin

(By Wang Pao-er and Matthew Mazzetta)

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