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Festival Off Avignon pressured by China over Taiwan guest of honor role

07/04/2024 05:37 PM
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The Ministry of Culture delegation with four Taiwanese arts groups take part in the Festival Off Avignon's opening parade in the southern French city on Tuesday. CNA photo July 3, 2024
The Ministry of Culture delegation with four Taiwanese arts groups take part in the Festival Off Avignon's opening parade in the southern French city on Tuesday. CNA photo July 3, 2024

Avignon, July 4 (CNA) The organizers of the Festival Off Avignon told CNA Thursday that they received protests and threats from China after selecting Taiwan as its guest of honor country for this year's event.

According to Harold David and Laurent Domingos, co-presidents of the Avignon Festival & Compagnies (AF&C), China's embassy in Paris threatened to withdraw from the event if Taiwan was not dropped as its guest of honor.

"We can't drive off a guest just because another guest could not get along with them," David said, adding that the festival was open to inviting China to be a future guest of honor country.

Domingos said that they had anticipated such a situation. "We are not stupid, we understand geopolitics," he said, adding that they have to bear responsibility for their choice.

While the festival's board has not made a final decision, David and Domingos said they believed the event, which began Wednesday, should maintain its independence, autonomy, variety and freedom, and keep Taiwan as the guest of honor.

Domingos told CNA that the festival is also planning events for the 60th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between France and the People's Republic of China.

The two are not conflicted, he said.

Harold David (left) and Laurent Domingos, co-presidents of the Avignon Festival & Compagnies. CNA photo July 4, 2024
Harold David (left) and Laurent Domingos, co-presidents of the Avignon Festival & Compagnies. CNA photo July 4, 2024

Taiwan first participated in the Festival Off Avignon 17 years ago, and the country's selection as guest of honor was a tribute to its past contributions to the event, David said.

The traits Taiwan shares with the festival include diversity, openness to the world, imagination, creativity and freedom of speech, he added.

Domingos also lauded the creativity that Taiwan has put in the festival.

"Taiwan identifies itself with its culture. It is not recognized by the United Nations and many countries as a 'country,' so it defines itself with its cultural identity," he said, adding that the festival itself was a field to exhibit cultural identity.

Festival Off Avignon, which runs from July 3 to July 21, is a globally renowned cultural event held annually alongside the official Avignon Festival in southern France.

(By Tseng Ting-hsuan and Wu Kuan-hsien)

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