Asian pop and politics collided when the People's Republic of China banned Taiwanese pop star A-mei, after the singer performed May 20 at the inauguration of Taiwan's new president.
"It's unjustified and unacceptable," Susie Chiang, director of Taiwan's Government Information Office in Hong Kong, said of the ban.
A-mei (born Chang Hui-mei), 28, sang at the inauguration of President Chen Shui-bian, who has refused to accommodate China's longstanding desire to reunite Taiwan with the mainland.
As a result of the ban, A-mei's albums and television commercials have been prohibited in the PRC, and she will not be allowed to perform there.
A-mei is one of the most popular singers in the region, and albums such as 1998's Holding Hands have sold well on both sides of the Taiwan Strait.
"She's a big star in Taiwan, Hong Kong and on the mainland," explained Tate Huang, of the Chinese Information and Cultural Center in New York. "They're just using this as a political excuse."
Huang said mainland China's move is a mistake insofar as "it shows that they're still a very closed society, and they don't want to communicate with Taiwan."
Mainland China has long insisted that Taiwan is part of it rather than a sovereign nation. Taiwan broke away in 1949, after a civil war, when Mao Zedong announced the creation of a "people's democratic dictatorship." Taiwan's new president has promised not to declare the island's independence but has refused to advocate a reunion.
"What's wrong with A-mei a singer and [Taiwanese] national singing her country's national anthem at her country's presidential inauguration?" Chiang asked.
Caught in the crossfire is American soft-drink giant Coca-Cola, which had been employing A-mei as its representative in a multimillion-dollar ad campaign in China. According to the Financial Times, the day before the inauguration, the company was told by the Chinese government that "TV, print and radio advertising had to be replaced."
At Coca-Cola's Atlanta corporate headquarters, spokesperson Carrie Bjorhus confirmed that the company's promotion with A-mei was no longer running in China, which did not confirm that A-mei has been banned there.
"The news reports on this have been contradictory," said Zhang Yuanyuan, press officer at the Chinese Embassy in Washington, D.C. "Some reports say she's going to Shanghai. I don't know what's going on. Maybe there's just some indication of displeasure. China has been very disappointed that the newly elected Taiwanese leader failed to endorse the one-China principle."