2009/09/21

Kaoshiung Folds under China's Pressure to Kick Rebiya's Film out of the Festival

Kaohsiung City surrenders to China's pressure and removes Uighor leader Rebiya's film "Ten Conditions of Love" from the upcoming Kaohsiung Film Festival starting from Oct, 16th.

They claim that it is rescheduled to 9/22, 9/23 -- 3 weeks ahead of the Festival program. That is, people who attend the Festival will NOT be able to watch it.

In the mean time, Kaoshiung City still tries to convince people that, by screening it anyway, they show their respect and support to the freedom and independent spirit of art. The Director-General of Kaoshiung City's Department of Information, Li-Ming Hsu (新聞處長許立明) claims in the rescheduling announcement that the decision of rejecting Rebiya's film was made based on the principles of (1) protecting the freedom of creativity, (2) upholding the independence of Festival operation and (3)respecting the right of movie viewers (保障創作自由、策展獨立與民眾觀影權利).

I have hard time following his logic, for that if they are based on those principles, shouldn't Rebiya's film be screened in the Festival as originally scheduled ?

He also claims that Rebiya's film is just one of the 79 films they will screen, so they decide to remove the film in order to protect the creative values of the rest 78 films.

For what I know so far, there's nothing at all indicates that any of the other 78 films is in any way jeopardized by this wave of protest against Rebiya's film.

The next day after the rescheduling was announced, the Festival organizer, which is taking order from the Kaoshiung City, issued an apology, claiming that it's determined by Kaoshiung City government so it's out of their hands. Mayor Chen Chu (陳菊), who gained wide support and approval with her successful management in the World Games earlier, emphasizes that the rescheduling is "not to please China, but to cease conflicts."

Haven't we heard this kind of arguments - repeatedly - before, from the blue camp ? Which act of "pleasing China" from the blue camp wasn't coated with one sort of something else one way or anyther ? Did Chen Chu forget that the green camp has been criticizing Ma Ying-jeou and KMT for pleasing China?

So it's OK to please China only if it comes from the green camp ?

The hard lesson to learn by all Taiwanese is that the hypocrisy doesn't have boundary.

What more pathetic is, Kaoshiung City reschedules the screening time to prevent Rebiya's film from showing in the Festival in the hope to "cease the conflict." But those who protested are still protesting and requesting that Kaoshiung to surrender completely by not filming it at all (高市府:放映熱比婭 勿政治詮釋).

Being a city that has been the historical sources of democratic development in Taiwan, Kaoshiung city behaves with unbelievably naiveness by thinking that the pressure from pro-china power can be handled by partial compromise.

12 comments:

Thomas [21/9/09 10:48] said...

Hi Taiwan Echo. I put the exact same comment on MT's blog because you linked to this post there. I am posting it here because it is your blog that refers to the problem of compromise, so I want to hear your opinion:

I am torn. While I understand the arguments of those who say that Kaohsiung and Chen Chu caved to Chinese pressure, I also can understand Chen's decision.

One of the hardest problems for the DPP to overcome right now is the endless tarring of its reputation by the KMT and foreign KMT sympathizers. It is not fair for the greens to be tarred as troublemakers simply for showing a film or standing up for what they believe in. But this tarring will be much worse if Chen makes no compromises and may be defused (or at least robbed of much of its bang) if she makes the right sort of less nefarious compromises.

I think of it this way. The Ma administration, the KMT bigwigs and Beijing certainly would all prefer that the film not be shown at all. And they would simultaneously love to use the showing of the film to their political advantage.

For the Chen, showing the film under the letterhead of the Kaohsiung Film Festival, even three weeks in advance, is therefore still an act of defiance that will resonate with most greens. And this act of defiance has been picked up by the overseas media. In this sense, the film has already served much of its purpose indicating that, in Taiwan, things are possible that are not possible in China. This will become more apparent when the film actually is screened and Beijing's protests remain unheeded.

Additionally, by showing the film three weeks in advance, Chen Chu and the greens can tell Taiwanese and the world that they have compromised. This makes it much harder for the Ma administration, the KMT bigwigs and Beijing to effectively criticize Chen and the greens. It also has the potential to earn points among light blues and greens in Taiwan if Chen's visit to China to promote the World Games earlier this year is anything to go by.

So this may be a very smart political move by Chen Chu. She once again comes out looking like a Taiwan-focused politician who has wrestled with Beijing and come out of the tussle relatively unscathed. She is also a respected administrator.

In short, she seems precisely to be what the electorate might want from the greens.

So I ask you, is this compromise such a catastrophe? Would it not be better for Taiwanese to see in Chen a positive example -- something they are not getting from their current president? And, for the DPP, isn't rediscovering such leaders, and providing examples to new ones, more important at the moment than resolutely insisting that the movie be shown three weeks later? So, to Raj and Echo Taiwan, I would say that we should look at the big picture.

The DPP would be in a much better position if more of its politicians knew how to put on such shows.

Taiwan Echo [21/9/09 13:27] said...

Hi Thomas,

The reasonings behind your arguments seem to be questionable --- one being that Beijing and KMT will somehow less critical about Kaoshiung, and the other being that the people will welcome a move of compromise on human right and independent creativity. For the former, the news already shows that Kaoshiung made a crown out of themselves by hoping to settle a conflict with compromise --- those people who originally protested heavily don't seem to cease the protest like what Kaoshiung has hoped for. It results in a situation that we gave up the principles but gain nothing. For the latter, we don't have information to prove what Chen Chu did is what people want.

I believe that your argument is based on a pure political strategic point of view, in which the principles of human right and the independence of film art seem to become secondary to the purpose of politics.

I have been advocating "winning strategies" to win the elections, even suggesting some sort of compromise (for example, stop chanting "Love Taiwan"), to many Taiwanese for some time. But I think in this case, pan green should steps up and take the lead to emphasize the core values of what we cherishing and will cherish in the future, especially when pan green is in the position to have the power of making any decision. Like I said in the post, the move of compromising on those values jeopardizes the justification with which DPP has been criticizing Ma and KMT.

This line of discussion might lead to one that deals with "what core values we can sacrifice to serve our political purpose."

Thomas [21/9/09 16:32] said...

As I said, I am torn. It is true that the festival has been influenced, and this makes the second "principle" of Li Ming-hsu untenable. However, I still don't see the catastrophe to which you seem to be referring.

First of all, the movie has not been "kicked out" of the festival and the question of whether or not Kaohsiung has "folded" is one of degree. Any degree is sad, but if any folding had to happen, this is not exactly a bad way to fold.

And in a place like Taiwan, where China does have so much influence, this was truly a minor fold.

This controversy has given the film tons of publicity in Taiwan. Plenty of people will come to see the film three weeks ahead of schedule as a result. The festival website is advertising the updated date. The venue is one of the official festival venues. And I am not convinced that changing the date will deprive interested viewers the chance to see the movie. Most of the attendees will be Taiwanese, and a large number are located in the vicinity of Kaohsiung. It is not as though interested viewers will be under a great deal of hardship if they want to see the movie. So I would hardly call this a solution that would "make China happy".

Second, you have not read clearly what I wrote. I did not write that Beijing and the KMT would criticise the film less. I wrote that the compromise might help defuse the brunt of their arguments. Sometimes, a small degree of folding can do just that. Contrast this with the massive degree of folding that the Dalai Lama and green officials dealt with when he came to Taiwan. In comparison, simply moving the date of the festival does not seem extreme.

Third, you say that my argument is based on political strategy. You also say that we don't know whether what Chen Chu did is what the people would want. You are correct on both accounts. However, I would note that nothing says that what Chen Chu did was unpopular either or that political strategy is any less important in this case.

Personally, I don't like that the festival date has been changed either. But interested viewers will still get to see the movie as part of the festival in much the same way as they would see it otherwise.

So while I agree with you that this is unfortunate, I would note that this matter should be put into perspective. It is already quite impressive that the film has made it this far despite clear opposition by the blue political class, which surely is trying to pull a lot of strings to get the film pulled. So while it is valid to criticise the local government for changing the date of the film, we should ALSO consider the many positives of the situation. Believe it or not, they do exist.

Taiwan Echo [22/9/09 04:54] said...

Thomas,

To me, the fact is clear that Rebiya's film is excluded from the Festival. People go to the Festival will not be able to watch it, period. I don't get how you insist that the film is sill considered part of the Festival. I guess the difference on perspective changes every way we look at it, including if the fold is considered minor or serious.

Besides, you probably overlook that those tourist organizations that gave Kaoshiung pressure in the first place didn't slow down at all in response to the rescheduling that is designed for just that. Like I said, it simply makes a crown out of self.

You said, "Third, you say that my argument is based on political strategy. You also say that we don't know whether what Chen Chu did is what the people would want. You are correct on both accounts. However, I would note that nothing says that what Chen Chu did was unpopular either or that political strategy is any less important in this case.

I don't see how this is relevant. I believe I never argue my points based on an argument that Chen Chu's move is unpopular.

I agree, though, that the controversies in this event triggers interests that makes people more eager to watch the film. Yes that can be considered a positive sign. But if that's the argument, shouldn't we also argue that voices of ciritcizing and protesting the rescheduling will invite even more interests ?

In fact, that's what I believe is happening now.

Thomas [22/9/09 12:21] said...

I get that the film is still a part of the festival by the marketing materials of the festival. Go to the website and take a look. The film is still listed and instructions for attending under the wings of the festival are clear.

True, the film is not a part of the main block of screenings. Yet, to observe an analogy, consider that during an Olympic summer, events are scheduled at different times than the main events and in different cities. Putting the equestrian events in Hong Kong at a different time did not make the Hong Kong games any less a part of the Olympic Games. This film is merely getting a different, and less convenient screening time, with four screenings I might add.

So I don't see how you can tell me that it is NOT a part of the festival.

Furthermore, it is only partially valid to say that people who go to the festival will not be able to see the film. The reality is that film and theater festivals usually take place over a period of several days or even longer. They typically include many more screenings than even the most intrepid viewer can attend. Therefore, most attendees choose a time to go and handpick movies to see. So those who really want to see the "10 Conditions of Love" and who are located in Taiwan (the majority of the viewers) will make arrangements to see the film at the time it is screened. The oddity in this case is only the length of time between this screening and the other screenings, which is a bit too long, I admit.

And I have not overlooked the fact that the tourist organizations in Kaohsiung are making toothless arguments. I totally disagree with them, just as I would prefer that the film be shown at its original time. However, I think that these toothless arguments, combined with the servile attitude of the KMT, combine to put immense domestic pressure on the Kaohsiung government. This pressure is very troubling. This is why I said that it is still impressive that the film has been kept a part of the festival and is showing at an official festival venue.

And, this comes back to why I am torn. The bending of Kaohsiung government to domestic and Chinese pressure is not cool, but considering the scale of the pressure that they must be under, the bending is actually not as severe as it could be. And since Taiwan is a much less influential country and has one foot in China's orbit already, the positives of the situation deserve some airing.

Thomas [22/9/09 12:24] said...

Note: The last sentence should read, "And since Taiwan is a much less influential country than Australia.

Taiwan Echo [22/9/09 12:59] said...

Thomas,

I guess we can't agree to each other.

To me, there are things we have to say. This has to be done, otherwise we don't have the position to criticize anything like this coming from Ma and KMT.

From the strategic point of view, Chen Chu has to respond at least somehow to the public opinions. Without our protests, Chen Chu will only see overwhelming protests from pro-China side. Under that situations Chen Chu has not much choice but to follow what the people want. We have to do this in order for Chen Chu to make a decision that I believe she prefers. There will be no ground to criticize anything like this now or in the future if we maintain silent.

From my point of view, it's a way to back up Chen Chu, not to drag her down. In the war of tug of forces, this is the role we people have to play.

Thomas [22/9/09 13:37] said...

Taiwan Echo,

I just want to emphasize that I agree with you. And I don't suggest brushing this matter under the rug with a smile. All I was saying was that we should be giving credit where credit is due and criticism where criticism is due.

Today's Taiwan News has a very good editorial about this: http://www.etaiwannews.com/etn/news_content.php?id=1062840&lang=eng_news&cate_img=46.jpg&cate_rss=news_Editorial

I would only suggest that the directors who withdrew their films redirect their own criticism. The intereference in the festival is not a good thing, but the main wrath of these directors should be directed at Beijing and the KMT. They are doing no favors to their own cause by lambasting the side that is trying (imperfectly) to keep the film in the festival.

Patrick Cowsill [1/10/09 15:05] said...

"And I am not convinced that changing the date will deprive interested viewers the chance to see the movie. Most of the attendees will be Taiwanese, and a large number are located in the vicinity of Kaohsiung."

Thomas, it doesn't matter if people can see it or not, if the film is receiving publicity, etc. The problem here is China telling us what to do. What gets played at a Kaohsiung Film Festival is not for China to decide. BTW, if China does not like what Uighur leaders are saying to the world, China can start behaving differently.

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