How does it feel to lose 40,000 Facebook friends?
For many of us who don’t even have that many friends on social media, it must feel horrendous. It’s probably the equivalent of being cast into the netherworld of our social existence in the digital era.
For Taiwanese pop singer and actor Show Luo (羅志祥), it may not mean much. Before the incident came to pass, he had more than 2.4 million “likes” on his Facebook account.
So losing a few thousand fans may not hurt too much. But it did.
It all started innocently enough when reporters asked the Taiwanese star for his views on working with Chinese artists.
“We don’t need to make [too many distinctions between China and Taiwan]. We’re all Chinese,” Luo said.
His response opened the floodgates of condemnation on the internet, especially from fans in Taiwan and Hong Kong.
By Monday night, the number of “likes” on his Facebook page dropped to 2.36 million, which means that more than 40,000 fans hit the “unlike” button.
Many left angry comments, asking the 36-year-old artist to return to China to earn more money.
His management company later issued a statement clarifying that Luo was born in Taiwan and grew up as a Chinese “under China’s cultural education”.
The firm also blamed politicians on both sides of the Taiwan Strait. “If cross-strait relations cannot be settled by politicians, please don’t ask the artists to do it for them,” it said. “Artists just want to do their best in performing before the public. Please let politics return to politics, and performance to performance.”
It seems nationality and identity are sensitive issues as far as people linked to China are concerned, especially so if views about these issues are made by popular artists.
Many of his fans thought that Luo made his “We are all Chinese” statement in order to curry favor with mainland authorities and please his mainland fans.
They also interpreted his remarks as a denial of his Taiwanese identity, an act made for the sake of his own interests.
Some critics, in fact, find it ridiculous for Luo to attempt to strike a balance to please both his Taiwanese and Chinese fans.
They also accuse him of playing according to the rulebook set by the Communist Party leaders in Beijing who insist that “there is only One China in the world, and Taiwan is part of China”.
Such a distorted mindset is mainly due to the surge of Chinese-style patriotism in the past decades as China emerged as an economic power, prompting political leaders and business people to queue up to be in China’s favor and reap profits from the world’s most populous nation.
The Chinese Communist Party has been promoting its “One China” policy since it established its rule in the mainland and its rival Kuomintang fled to Taiwan in 1949.
Beijing has also dreamt of reunification, which means extending its sovereignty across the Taiwan Strait.
Artists like Luo cannot hide behind their profession to take a neutral stance on the issue. They should declare themselves as Taiwanese or Chinese.
In the past decade, so many Taiwanese artists have suffered from this Chinese patriotic trap.
One of the most famous examples is Taiwan-born indigenous singer A-Mei. In 2000, she was banned from performing in the mainland for a year after she sang Taiwan’s national anthem at the inauguration of Chen Shui-bian, of the independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party, as the island’s president.
Why should A-Mei be faulted for singing the Taiwanese anthem when she is a Taiwanese? But the Chinese Communist Party insisted on the “One China” policy and imposed a sanction on her.
Last week, 16-year-old Taiwanese artist Chou Tzu-yu declared that she is a “Chinese” and that she regrets holding a Taiwan flag during a performance in South Korea.
Why should she apologize for holding a Taiwanese flag? She was born in Taiwan and she is a Taiwanese.
But for economic reasons, Chou was forced to declare her allegiance to China.
China’s state-owned newspaper Global Times on Tuesday expressed its support for mainland Chinese who condemn those who insist on Taiwan’s independence, saying that they cannot accept a Taiwan that is separate from China.
Chinese authorities as well as the people under their regime appear to be living in a “parallel universe”.
From Beijing’s perspective, all Chinese are one, regardless of their birth and nationality.
In effect, Beijing is depriving the Taiwanese people of their national identity.
It’s a problem that Chinese authorities need to deal with as the nation gains more prominence on the world stage.
They need to learn how to “respect” others in order to win the respect of others.
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