As a political journalist with keen interest on Asian pop culture, I couldn’t help noticing that in this recent presidential campaign in Taiwan, the stars were nowhere in sight. Not that they have been very active in the previous campaigns of the candidates.
I suppose they learned a very harsh lesson from A-mei herself when she sang the Taiwan national anthem at the inauguration in 2000 of Chen Shui-bian of the Democratic Progressive Party, which calls itself as the homegrown political party, differentiating itself from the nationalist Kuomintang.
As a result of that performance, A-mei was promptly banned in China. It must have been a big blow, not necessarily to her career as she may have gained street cred, but to her finances. After all, China is the biggest market in Asia, especially for a Taiwanese artist.
So I am not really surprised that Taiwanese stars have learned their lessons and try to stay away from politics as much as they could. As Jay Chou said when asked if he voted in the elections held on January 14:
“I don’t touch politics. I’ve never tried to vote… I have been busy. I will concentrate on making music.”
He said this in Hong Kong while promoting The Viral Factor with Nicholas Tse, and toting guns at that.
Fine, Chou Jie-lun. You won’t touch politics but you won’t have any second thoughts in touching a gun, no matter how fake it is.
Let me just nitpick on this a little further. I am very well aware that The Viral Factor is an action film that obviously employs the use of guns. And I am sure that those guns these guys are toting in the promo are fake. Or at least I hope they are. But in a world that’s increasingly getting chaotic, what exactly are you promoting with that? I guess the answer is too obvious. But for an idol like Jay Chou, whose name appears in Taiwanese textbooks, is that a good example? I don’t think so. Of course what can he do when the producer/promoter hands him a gun and tells him to brandish it during the promotion? He’s just an artist right? But I just hope that artists like him who says he doesn’t touch politics would be more circumspect and not touch a gun either in a public event when there’s absolutely no need to do that in promoting a film. We know it’s an action film with violent scenes. That’s enough. And that’s also enough for my rant. >end<
Oh and please, I’m a Jay Chou fan.
Anyway, according to this story, Jay was not the only Taiwanese artist who had an excuse for not exercising his right to vote. There’s also Giddens Ko and Michelle Chen, director and lead actress, respectively, of You Are The Apple of My Eye.
“I’m not interested in politics. Democracy means you are free to express yourself and you are free not to express yourself.”
He said that by the way during a promotional activity in Beijing, where some scenes in his film found themselves on the editing floor thanks to censorship.
I find Giddens’ pronouncement ironic, having made it in an environment that does not really encourage nor practice democracy. But well, that’s how a Taiwanese artist can best handle such tricky questions about politics especially when in mainland territory. To say they are not interested in politics.
Or else, they will suffer A-mei’s fate too.
Just to bring home this point on why Taiwanese artists can’t touch politics: It took seven years before A-mei was allowed to release her CDs in China, and eventually, make an appearance too. Read more of it here. Here’s a more extensive story immediately following the ban on A-mei and she was even smiling then saying she hoped it will end soon. Well, it did end… seven years later.
So yeah, I can understand why politics and entertainment cannot be strange bedfellows in Taiwan. I come from a country where politics and entertainment intermarry, interchange and interact so much so it’s difficult at times to differentiate what is politics and what is entertainment.
Separation of politics and entertainment in Taiwan is great. But it shouldn’t be an excuse for stars not to vote. It’s still their country. And it’s their right.
China doesn’t have to know.
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