SHANGHAI/TAIPEI • China's film regulator yesterday said, without giving reasons, that it was blocking its own movie industry from participating in Taiwan's Golden Horse Awards, in the latest sign of rising tensions with the self-ruled island.
China Film News, a magazine published by the China Film Administration, made the announcement on its official WeChat account.
The event - the Chinese-speaking world's version of the Oscars - last year became a lightning rod for questions about Taiwanese independence, sparking debate between stars and netizens alike.
Beijing and Taipei's relations have since become more strained. China said last week that it would stop issuing individual travel permits for Taiwan to Chinese travellers.
"We certainly would feel regret if it was true," Taiwan's Golden Horse Film Festival said in a statement, adding that related events will be held as scheduled.
China has been using the international stage to assert its sovereignty over Taiwan through pressure such as military drills. Taipei has stressed that the moves are an attempt to manipulate the island's presidential elections in January next year.
"The Golden Horse was a good platform for exchanges (between) the mainland, Taiwan and Hong Kong," said Shanghai-based film critic Dong Shu. "But some people in Taiwan had to get politically sensitive content on it, things that crossed lines for mainland China, so the nature of this award has been changed."
Founded in 1962, the Golden Horse Awards is considered one of the Chinese-speaking film industry's most prestigious awards, with submissions mainly from China, Hong Kong and Taiwan.
Last year, Chinese movie Dying To Survive was nominated in seven categories, while Chinese director Zhang Yimou won best director for period film Shadow.
Taiwan is self-governed and has a democratically elected leadership, but China claims it as a breakaway province and has not ruled out the use of force to ensure unification. The question of Taiwan's formal independence is one of China's most sensitive political concerns.
China's content regulator has taken a more cautious approach to its media industry ahead of the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China on Oct 1, banning "entertainment-driven" historical and idol dramas.
The suspension became a trending topic on China's Weibo, with one related hashtag receiving more than 68 million views yesterday morning.
"Taiwan made this award political first, don't we have a right to punch back?" asked a Weibo user.
"Politics aside, this is a lose-lose situation," said another, adding that China did not have an impartial award of equal prestige.