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July 25, 2017

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Uighur film to screen

KAOHSIUNG, Taiwan -- Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chu yesterday said a film festival in her city will screen a documentary on Uighur independence activist Rebiya Kadeer despite speculation it is angering China.

Chen, a prominent leader in the pro-Taiwan independence camp, said the decision to screen "The 10 Conditions of Love" was made out of respect for arts, creativity and freedom of speech.

The city government will work out other measures to "save" its tourism, Chen said, in response to speculation that China tourists are boycotting Kaohsiung because of its recent connection with figures whom China considers to be separatists.

The city has come under pressure to remove the documentary from the Kaohsiung Film Festival next month after hotels in the city reported a drastic increase in cancellation of bookings from China tour groups.

Speculation has emerged that China is attempting to create a boycott of the southern port city over the film, as well as a recent visit to Kaohsiung by the Dalai Lama.

Premier Wu Den-yih, whose government advocates closer ties with China, said before Chen's announcement that he would respect Kaohsiung's decision on showing the Uighur documentary.

Wu, who has served as mayor of the southern city, said he believes Kaohsiung would be capable of handling the matter.

Cabinet spokesman Su Jun-pin said Taiwan is a sovereign country with freedom of speech, and its government will not interfere with or control the screening of a film, unless there is anything illegal with the activity.

But ruling Kuomintang (KMT) Deputy Secretary-General Chang Jung-kung, who handles the party's ties with China, warned Chen of the risks of screening the film.

He said the mayor should give top priority to the public interest of her city, and should "think carefully" if the move affects Kaohsiung's tourism.

But he maintained that the issue has nothing to do with the KMT's ties with the Chinese communists.

"We (the KMT) can't tell Kaohsiung what it can screen and what it cannot screen," said Chang.

The pro-Taiwan independence Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) has condemned China, claiming it is maneuvering behind the scene for the tourist boycott.

DPP Chairwoman Tsai Ing-wen said yesterday that Kaohsiung Film Festival must not give in to China's pressure.

The city's director of tourism, Lin Kun-shan, said hotels in Kaohsiung have reported a drastic increase in cancellation of bookings by China tourists.

The hotels asked the city government to avoid doing things, including holding the screening of the Uighur documentary, that could affect their business, Lin said.

Lin said the drop in tourism revenues is not unique to Kaohsiung, as other cities in Taiwan have also suffered a similar fate because of the global financial crisis and the disasters inflicted by Typhoon Morakot last month.

The film festival runs from Oct. 16 till 29, but the screening schedule for "The 10 Conditions of Love" has yet to be set.

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