Man Booker Submits to Beijing and Causes Controversy by Listing Taiwanese Author as Chinese

By April 2, 2018Literary Awards, News

The Man Booker International Prize is one of the most prestigious literary awards in the world and has been awarded to the likes of Margaret Atwood, Julian Barnes, and Hilary Mantel. A major controversy has now stirred after the organisation changed the nationality of a Taiwanese nominee to “Taiwan, China,” following pressure from the Chinese embassy in London.

The Chinese government believes the island of Taiwan is part of China’s territory and wants to see the country brought into the fold, by force if necessary. China has since been undermining and excluding Taiwan on the global forum in order to quell ideas that it is its own country. Many Taiwan’s 23 million citizens reject China’s claim and the country has its own government, military, and foreign policy. 

Author Professor Wu has been nominated for this year’s Man Booker Prize for his novel The Stolen Bicycle, a book about the Taiwanese 20th-century history. He personally considers himself Taiwanese rather than Chinese. Last week, Professor Wu criticised Man Booker for caving in to pressure from Beijing and said: “Since the publication of the longlist for this year’s Man Booker International award, my nationality on the webpage has been changed from Taiwan to Taiwan, China, which is not my personal position on this issue. I will therefore seek assistance in expressing my personal position to the award organisation.”

Wu has faced severe criticism from China for his stance and, after stating that he was honored to be listed as Taiwanese rather than Chinese. “We should join together and ban his books from being sold on the mainland because his stance differs from that of 1.3 billion Chinese people,” said one user on Sina Weibo, China’s version of Twitter.

Another said: “It looks like we will have to establish a blacklist of people seeking Taiwan independence to completely eliminate their connection with the mainland.”

Lin Hsui-mei, Wu’s editor, has backed his client’s stance and stated that politics should not influence decisions to honour artists. The Taiwanese government has also criticised China’s demands. The foreign ministry has issued a complaint and has instructed its representatives in London to demand a “correction”.

As The Telegraph reports, Man Booker has explained its actions, saying: “We are currently seeking clarification from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office on the UK’s official position on Taiwan following earlier advice that ‘Taiwan, China’ was the correct, politically neutral form,” said spokesperson, Truda Spruyt.

“We are aware that Wu Ming-yi defines himself as Taiwanese and have kept him informed throughout the process.” Ms Spruyt clarified that the Man Group, which sponsors the prize, and also has business interests in China, was “not involved in the decision.”

This is not the first time tension between China and other territories has caused controversy. Mercedes Benz once apologised for offending the Chinese after its Instagram account quoted the Dalai Lama, who is seen as an enemy by China for opposing the government’s occupation of Tibet. Ross Feingold, a Taipei-based lawyer and analyst, stated that organisations ought not give in to China’s demands, saying: “People from Taiwan have been awarded international prizes simply being identified as ‘Taiwan’ so arguably it’s an overreach when organisations feel compelled to add ‘province of China’.”

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