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Why Taiwan must show `The 10 Conditions of Love`

Why Taiwan must show `The 10 Conditions of Love`

The Taiwan government and people should deeply consider the lessons of the flap over the flap over the withdraw of the Taiwan directed and produced film ``Miao Miao`` from the Melbourne Film Festival by a Hong Kong company last week as part of a Chinese attempt to block the showing of a documentary about exiled Uyghur political activist Rebiya Kadeer.

The occasion for the boycott orchestrated by the authoritarian People`s Republic of China was the MIFF`s decision to show ``The 10 Conditions of Love,`` a documentary by Australian director Jeff Daniels on the life of World Uyghur Congress President Rebiya Kadeer, who is also attending the festival at the MIFF`s invitation.

Kadeer is now the subject of a PRC - orchestrated hate campaign as the scapegoat for the riots in Xinjiang (otherwise known as East Turkestan) last month that cost the lives of at least 170 persons.

The PRC assault against the MIFF for daring to show the documentary has included an official protest delivered to the Australia`s ambassador in Beijing, the withdrawal of all films produced in the PRC and its Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and mass hacker attacks on the MIFF website that crashed the site and interfered with ticket sales.

Nevertheless, the boycott backfired as tickets for ``Ten Conditions`` were quickly sold out and Beijing`s crude effort to enforce its censorship rules in a democratic country gave a dramatic boost to the global profile of Kadeer and the Urygur cause.

However, Taiwan`s image as a human rights nation was severely wounded as one of the films pulled by the PRC and HKSAR was the drama film ``Miao Miao`` which directed by Taiwan director Cheng Hsiao-tse, in Taiwan and largely funded by NT$4 million grant from the Government Information Office but was entered as a film from Hong Kong by the Dutch - based Fortissimo Films, allegedly because it also received PRC funding, and was pulled by the Fortissimo`s Hong Kong office, apparently without advance consultation with the GIO.

Moreover, the impression was conveyed by at least one international wire service (Agence France Presse) and rapidly disseminated in the cinema community that ``Miao Miao`` was pulled by Taiwan in cooperation with Beijing`s boycott.

Fortunately, the Taiwan Economic and Cultural Office in Melbourne promptly issued a declaration that the Taiwan government had not withdrawn ``Miao Miao`` and that two Taiwan short films (``Joyce Agape`` and ``The Pursuit of What Was``) were still to be shown in the MIFF and stressed that Taiwan upheld ``freedom of expression and human rights.``

After questioning Taiwan`s Fortissimo office in the wake of a protest by opposition Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Lin Shu-fen, GIO Minister Su Chun-pin finally issued a formal ``strong protest`` Thursday over the withdrawal and said Taiwan Fortissmo`s failure to inform the GIO resulted in major harm to ``Taiwan`s national image`` since the disappearance of ``Miao Miao`` was interpreted abroad ``as complementing the boycott by certain regions and certain countries.``

The risks of `reconciliation`

The immediate lesson that must be learned from this experience that the GIO need to take concrete action to ensure that motion picture projects which receive assistance from Taiwan taxpayers are indeed centered in Taiwan, benefit the Taiwan artistic community and reflect Taiwan society and are represented in the world community as having originated in Taiwan and not the PRC or Hong Kong.

For a film set in Taiwan, directed by a Taiwan director and produced in Taiwan to pulled from the sight of viewers by a Hong Kong agent in cooperation with a PRC campaign to suppress human rights is an unimaginable insult to Taiwan`s democratic image that must never be repeated.

In broader terms, this incident also exposes to all Taiwan citizens the potential risks to Taiwan`s national interests of the deliberate policy of the virtually unconditional ``reconciliation`` with the authoritarian PRC regime launched by President Ma Ying-jeou and his right-wing Chinese Nationalist Party government.

Since beginning an unilateral ``diplomatic truce,`` Ma has proclaimed that the Taiwan people are ``part of the Chinese race nation`` and has refrained from any criticism of the Beijing regime for its refusal to apologize for the ``Tiananmen Massacre`` of June 4, 1989 or its brutal handling of demonstrations for autonomy in Tibet and Xinjiang or other violations of human rights.

In return for such slavishness, the world media now considers Taiwan to be ``pro-Beijing`` and therefore anti-human rights and assumed as a matter of course that the withdraw of ``Miao Miao`` from the MIFF was taken in coordination with the PRC`s boycott.

The prompt denial by Taiwan`s representative office in Melbourne and Su`s ``strong protest`` have eased but has not compensated for the severe harm inflicted on Taiwan`s image as a democratic country.

Besides issuing a formal protest which few international media will notice, the best way for Taiwan to demonstrate our commitment to freedom of expression will be to show ``The 10 Conditions of Love`` in all available Taiwan film festivals in the coming year.