Hong Kong's top film-maker Johnnie To pulls out of Taiwan's Golden Horse Awards after Beijing orders

HONG KONG (BLOOMBERG) – One of Hong Kong’s best-known film directors resigned as jury president of a prestigious movie awards event in Taiwan, weeks after Beijing ordered all Chinese artists against participating in the Nov 23 show.

Johnnie To’s decision to pull out of the Golden Horse Awards was posted on Thursday (Sept 19) on a Facebook page of a film festival associated with the awards. The withdrawal of the maker of Cantonese movies such as Election and Running Out Of Time was because of “previously signed film production contractual obligations”, according to the Facebook post.

The awards, among the highest-profile events for celebrities across the Chinese-speaking film world, have come under fire from the authorities in Beijing since last year when Taiwanese director Fu Yue, in her acceptance speech, included comments supporting Taiwan’s independence.

China’s Communist Party regards the island as its territory to be taken by force if necessary and has made many attempts to isolate Taiwan and Ms Tsai Ing-wen, its democratically elected, independence-leaning president. Ms Tsai is facing re-election in January.

The move by To, known as the “godfather” of Hong Kong gangster films, also comes during a prolonged period of political unrest in the city.

Asia’s financial hub has seen pro-democracy protests since early June, with some of the rallies turning violent. As the confrontation between the city’s Beijing-backed administration and the protesters shows no signs of abating, some local business and cultural elite have voiced support for the government.

The China Film Administration asked Chinese movies, crew, actors and actresses to pull out of the Taiwan awards this year, without citing a reason, state media China Film News posted on its official Weibo account last month.

The executive committee of the Taipei Golden Horse Film Festival declined to comment on Thursday on whether any Chinese productions have quit the awards. To could not be immediately reached for comment.

Oscar-winning Taiwanese director Ang Lee, who is the chairman of the executive committee of the festival, expressed his understanding of To’s decision, according to the announcement.

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