Madonna's flag stunt stokes China-Taiwan row

A photograph supplied by a member of the audience shows pop star Madonna with the Taiwan flag as she performed an encore during her concert in Taipei on Thursday.
A photograph supplied by a member of the audience shows pop star Madonna with the Taiwan flag as she performed an encore during her concert in Taipei on Thursday. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

TAIPEI • Pop diva Madonna has waded into the war of words over Taiwanese identity after draping herself in the island's flag, sparking ire in China, where any suggestion of independence is scorned.

Taiwan's Apple Daily and Liberty Times newspapers ran photos of Madonna with the flag over her shoulders as she sang an encore on Thursday on the Taipei leg of her global Rebel Heart Tour.

The move was greeted enthusiastically by many on Taiwanese Internet forums, who saw it as a boost to their quest to protect the island's sovereignty in the face of increased influence from Beijing.

"Madonna supports Taiwan with her acts. Taiwan loves Madonna too," read one message on Apple Daily's website.

But posts on China's Twitter-like Weibo responded angrily.

"Is Taiwan a country? I am laughing to death... you are just a region," said one.

"Madonna draped the flag and you think you are going to be recognised by the UN? So funny," said another, referring to Taiwan's lack of international status.

Taiwan has been self-ruled since splitting from China in 1949, following a civil war, but Beijing still views it as part of its territory awaiting reunification.

As Beijing's influence has grown globally, Taiwan has haemorrhaged allies, lost its place at the UN to Beijing and is now recognised by only 22 countries.

China's supporters also voiced their anger on Madonna's Instagram account, responding to a picture which showed her face superimposed on a blue sun motif similar to the white sun on Taiwan's flag, attracting 2,000 messages.

Others have hit back at the critical Instagram posts.

"Someone holds the flag and you are barking like a dog. So low class. If you like China so much, go back to use your Weibo," one comment read.

The Asian leg of the Rebel Heart Tour includes dates in Hong Kong and Macau, but not mainland China. Madonna's concert in Singapore will be held on Feb 28.

Last year, US singer-songwriter Katy Perry caused a stir in Taiwan and China when she appeared on stage in Taipei draped in a Taiwan flag, while donning a gold dress adorned with sunflowers - a symbol of anti-China student protests in Taiwan in 2014.

Several Taiwanese entertainers have also got into trouble for waving the Taiwan flag abroad.

Last month, K-pop singer Chou Tzu-yu, 16, was forced to apologise for waving the flag in an Internet broadcast, which stoked online anger in China.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 06, 2016, with the headline 'Madonna's flag stunt stokes China-Taiwan row'. Print Edition | Subscribe