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China Steps Up Pressure on Golden Horse Awards After Last Year’s Political Firestorm

China’s spat with Taiwan over the prestigious Golden Horse film awards has escalated, with mainland productions and stars being ordered to boycott the ceremony and some Hong Kong companies and celebrities reportedly pulling out as well.

China’s state-run CCTV announced on its official Weibo site Wednesday that the China Film Administration had banned local films and filmmakers from taking part in the 56th edition of the Golden Horse Awards, often dubbed the Oscars of Chinese-language cinema. The glittering annual event takes place in Taiwan.

At last year’s ceremony, award-winning Taiwanese director Fu Yue’s acceptance speech sparked a political firestorm when she said she hoped Taiwan could be treated as an independent entity. That quickly drew condemnation from some mainland Chinese actors attending the ceremony, including Gong Li, and on social media in mainland China, which considers Taiwan part of its territory.

China had already announced in June that it was scheduling its own film awards, the Golden Roosters, on the same day this year, Nov. 23, as the Golden Horse Awards. Wednesday’s announced boycott also comes just days after China banned its citizens from individual travel to Taiwan, which has been seen as a strike against Taiwan’s pro-independence president, Tsai Ing-wen.

Although the mainland’s boycott does not officially include Hong Kong films and filmmakers, some Hong Kong film companies are reportedly withdrawing from the Golden Horse competition as well. Hong Kong’s Apple Daily said that titles including crime thriller “The White Storm 2 – Drug Lords” from Focus Group and Sil-Metropole Organization, which has close ties with mainland China, and “Line Walker 2: Invisible Spy” from Shaw Brothers Studio, which has investment from the mainland, are among those being pulled from the event.

Producer John Chong (“Infernal Affairs”), who rejoined Media Asia earlier this year, told Variety that Media Asia had not scheduled any film releases yet this year and so has not submitted any titles to compete in the Golden Horse awards. But he said that if a project is co-produced with mainland China, the company will need to seek advice from mainland partners regarding participation in the Golden Horse.

Alex Wong, head of Hong Kong’s Filmko, was quoted as saying that the company supported the China Film Administration’s decision and that the company’s projects and stars would not attend the Golden Horse ceremony.

Besides the awards ceremony, mainland Chinese filmmakers are also banned from taking part in any cultural exchange events in Taiwan. The 15th Greater China Film Directors’ Forum, which is scheduled to take place Sept. 6-9, has been canceled after some 50 mainland Chinese film directors, including Feng Xiaogang (“Youth,” “The Banquet”) were told that they would not be allowed to travel to Taiwan.

Taiwan’s Ministry of Culture said the Golden Horse would continue as usual as a celebration of cinematic art. The ministry criticized mainland authorities for undermining the efforts of mainland Chinese filmmakers.

The Golden Horse organizing committee did not comment on the boycott. Its nominations will be announced in October. According to the data on the event’s website, this year 148 dramatic feature films have been submitted, compared to 228 last year, 202 in 2017, and 181 in 2016.

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