Hong Kong director resigns from jury for Taiwan's Golden Horse Awards after China boycott

Johnnie To's resignation due to 'previously signed film production contractual obligations'

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Johnnie To (Screen capture from Golden Horse Film Festival's Facebook page)

Johnnie To (Screen capture from Golden Horse Film Festival's Facebook page)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Hong Kong film director Johnnie To (杜琪峯) has resigned as the jury president of the 56th Golden Horse Awards after a boycott by Beijing led to the withdrawal of Chinese and Hong Kong films from the Taiwan-based awards.

The Golden Horse Awards’ executive committee said via a statement on Thursday (Sept. 19) that the director would no longer lead the jury “due to previously signed film production contractual obligations.” To will be succeeded by Taiwanese director Wang Toon (王童), a two-time winner of the Golden Horse Award for Best Director.

“To expresses his regret and apology for the inconvenience, while the Taipei Golden Horse Film Festival Executive Committee and Chair Ang Lee (李安) show their understanding and wish the best to him,” said the statement. The committee added that this year’s award nominees will be announced on Oct. 1, with the award ceremony held on Nov. 23 as scheduled.

To’s departure comes as yet another blow to the reputable Golden Horse Awards, sometimes referred to as the “Oscars of Asia,” after the China Film Administration announced in August that Chinese films and filmmakers would be prohibited from participating in the awards. China’s Taiwan Affairs Office Spokesperson Ma Xiaoguang (馬曉光) later laid blame on the Taiwanese government and pro-independence forces in the country during a press briefing.

The boycott was widely seen as being related to the controversies during last year’s award ceremony, when a Taiwanese documentary filmmaker delivered an acceptance speech that was deemed by Beijing as pro-Taiwan independence remarks. Following Fu Yue’s (傅榆) speech, the ceremony stage became a display of patriotism for Chinese filmmakers who made claims associating Taiwan with Chinese territory and thus angered many Taiwanese.

According to earlier reports by Hong Kong media, some Hong Kong-based film distribution companies decided to pull their films from the awards this year after the Chinese ban was introduced. An email suspected of being sent by the Hong Kong Motion Picture Industry Association warned members to “seriously take their own interests into consideration” to avoid “unnecessary loss” due to taking part in the film awards, but that piece of information has never been confirmed.