Harry Potter has recently found himself mired in the squabbles of the muggle world after falling afoul of the “one China” policy.
This year, Pottermore, the publisher of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter novels, and Warner Bros., which holds the rights to the films, collaborated to set up a single website, Wizarding World, which will soon serve as the official online hub for all Harry Potter fans.
Back in May, one fan, Chang Kai-han, a Taiwanese college student, logged on to set up an account but decided instead to boycott the site after discovering that she would have to choose “Taiwan, Province of China,” as her nationality.
Chang penned an angry letter of complaint to the website, arguing that politics ought to stay out of the magical world of Harry Potter, and encouraged her friends to do the same.
While she hadn’t really expected a response, she received one about two weeks later in the form of an email which notified her that “the listing for Taiwan has changed to reflect your feedback.”
“I was very happy,” she remembered. “I jumped up from my seat and rushed to open the website to see if they had really changed it.”
And change it they did. Taiwan was displayed on the drop-down list without “Province of China” as a suffix. In fact, according to one Chinese media report, Hong Kong and Macau had become listed independently as well.
News of this change finally made its way to Chinese social media at the end of last week where netizens expressed their outrage.
Some commented that they had been loyal Harry Potter fans for over a decade but that they were ready to withdraw their support for the series. Others wrote that they had been excited to visit the Universal Studios theme park under construction in Beijing, which will include a Harry Potter world, but that they no longer plan on going when it opens.
By Sunday, the sign-up page for the Wizarding World website had changed yet again. “Country” had become “Country/Region” and “Taiwan” had become “Taiwan, China” with Hong Kong and Macau listed in the same way.
Harry Potter is far from the first to run into these kinds of issues. Last year, China forced a number of international companies, from Zara to Marriott to rectify their drop-down menus and cease listing Taiwan as an independent “country.”
A particular target was global airlines with the Civil Aviation Administration of China sending out notices to 44 foreign airlines, demanding that they remove any reference on their websites or in other promotional materials which suggest that Taiwan is a country separate from China.
All the airlines ended up complying with this demand in one way or another.