She delighted audiences in Ang Lee’s first film, The Wedding Banquet, but despite her Independent Spirit Award-nominated turn as the sassy artist from Shanghai who marries her gay landlord, May Chin (高金素梅) didn’t pursue much of an acting career in the years following.
Instead, it looks like she became an activist (and politician). She appeared most recently in Japan to protest the inclusion of aboriginal Taiwanese names in the controversial Yasukuni Shrine, a memento that honors dead soldiers from World War II.
Chin launched a surprise protest on Monday with a group of about 50 other Taiwanese. Arriving at the shrine’s main hall at 9:30 in the morning, she and her group chanted slogans demanding that the Japanese “give back our ancestors’ spirits.” She called for the removal of the Taiwanese aboriginal names and demanded that the Japanese government examine, apologize and make reparations for its war atrocities. If it didn’t, the group promised to visit the shrine every year to demonstrate.
More than 28,000 soldiers who died fighting for Japan during World War II were from Taiwan, which was under Japan’s colonial rule at the time. But most of the recruits had been enlisted by force, which made their inclusion in the shrine a shameful matter, the group argued.
After about 30 minutes of protesting and singing “Requiem” for departed souls, the group peacefully left. Chin said in an interview afterward that it had always been meant to be a peaceful operation – they were willing to defend themselves against Japanese police and security, who had tried somewhat lamely to stop the protest, but the group had strict rules about not resorting to violence.
As protests against the Japanese are wont to do, her “raid” of the Yasukuni shrine has caused quite a stir online in China. The article on Netease has already garnered over 1800 comments, most of which are breathless praises of her actions and regrets that mainland Chinese never seem to be able to do these kind of protests quite as well.