A tearful apology by 16-year-old K-pop singer Chou Tzuyu for waving the Taiwanese flag in an online-only segment of a South Korean reality show has sparked a rare show of unity among the presidential candidates from Taiwan’s three major political parties.
Chinese netizens were angered after Tzuyu was seen waving the South Korean flag in one hand and the Taiwanese flag in the other, with many accusing her of profiting from her mainland Chinese audience while holding a pro-independence stance.
In the video, which has since been viewed on Youtube more than 3 million times, a sombre Tzuyu apologizes in front of the camera for her actions. “There is only one China and the two sides are one,” she said.
The controversy over the 16-year-old K-pop star brought the island’s three presidential candidates to come to her defense as Taiwanese went to the polls for the island’s presidential and legislative elections.
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Posted by TVBS 新聞 on Friday, 15 January 2016
“A citizen of the Republic of China should not be punished for waving her flag and expressing support for her country,” said frontrunner Tsai Ing-wen of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), who could well succeed in her bid to became the island’s first female leader when results are out later this evening.
“[Chou Tzuyu] has been forced to say the exact opposite of what she originally meant, so this is a serious matter and it has hurt the feelings of the Taiwanese people.”
The utterance of the term “Republic of China” by the leader of the independence-leaning party has raised eyebrows. In October 2015, while attending Double Ten Day celebrations, Tsai refused to sing several words in the anthem which referred to the Kuomintang. The Kuomintang’s emblem features significantly in the Republic of China flag.
“I was very saddened by the images I saw yesterday. For the Kuomintang and for myself, we will always stand on the side of the Republic of China,” Eric Chu of the ruling Kuomintang (KMT) chimed in. “We condemn the actions by the Korean talent agency and the singer Huang An.”
“I am angered by the attitude which the [Chinese] government has taken to deal with this teenager,” said James Soong, leader of the People First Party. “We need to let mainland authorities know exactly where we stand on this.”
Taiwan’s current president Ma Ying-jeou also weighed into the controversy this morning, saying that she had no need to apologize. “She had done nothing wrong but was forced to apologize. I want to tell Ms Chou she has no need to do so, we support her.”
Analysts have speculated that the controversy could boost voter turnout. “Any boost to the turnout likely helps Tsai and the DPP, particularly since this has gone viral among young people,” said Clayton Dube of the University of Southern California’s US-China Institute.
Watch the video clip which set the scandal in motion here:
Tzuyu is not the first celebrity for which the Taiwanese flag has caused controversy. Last April Katy Perry set off political fireworks when she wore a sunflower dress and Taiwanese flag on stage during a concert in Taipei, showing solidarity with those taking part in the Sunflower Movement.
In 2000, when Taiwanese diva Chang Hui-mei sang the anthem of the Republic of China at the inauguration of the pro-independence president Chen Shui-bian, she was barred from performing in China until the summer of the next year.