Sing! China concert in Taiwan halted amid protests

Pro-Taiwan independence activists demonstrate near a concert stage at the National Taiwan University in Taipei on Sept 24, 2017. PHOTO: AFP

TAIPEI (AFP) - A music concert in Taiwan descended into chaos over the weekend when independence activists clashed with pro-China groups, with three people injured in the scuffles.

The incident comes amid heightened tensions between the self-ruled island and the mainland since Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen took office in May last year, with Beijing cutting off all official communications.

The event, held on Sunday (Sept 24) at the National Taiwan University in Taipei was meant to showcase performers from the Chinese reality TV show and singing competition Sing! China - the country's equivalent of US talent show The Voice.

About 100 to 200 people attended the concert, which was free to the public and co-hosted by the city government and a Shanghai association promoting cross-strait exchange, organisers said.

But it quickly became a hotbed of political protests as pro-independence groups waved banners and sounded horns inside the venue, with some calling the event another ploy by Beijing to influence the island. A group of students also protested against the university renting the field out for the event and preventing students from using it.

After organisers decided to end the concert early, clashes broke out between the protesters and pro-China groups. Footage in local media showed protesters taking over the stage chanting: "We are the National Taiwan University, not the China Taiwan University!"

Three people were injured, with one student surnamed Chang saying he suffered a bloodied head and injured arm after being attacked by pro-China groups. Police took one man in for questioning.

Emotions are running high in Taiwan as locals become increasingly wary of Beijing's efforts to cast its influence. China sees Taiwan as part of its territory waiting to be reunified and wants its president to acknowledge the island is part of "One China", which she has refused to do.

The ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) condemned the violence on Monday, calling on police to investigate the case.

Sing! China sees aspiring singers compete against each other for a chance at fame, and features heavyweight Asian pop stars such as Taiwan's Jay Chou and Hong Kong's Eason Chan. Outside of China it has also gained a following in Hong Kong, Taiwan and Singapore.

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