China pressures Italian book fair over use of ‘Taiwan’

Democratic Progressive Party lawmaker Huang Kuo-shu (黃國書) yesterday accused China of pressuring the Bologna Children’s Book Fair to mark the works of Taiwanese illustrator Cho Pei-hsin (卓霈欣) as being from “Taiwan, China”.

Huang spoke about the dispute at a legislative hearing attended by officials from the Ministry of Culture.

The Italian book fair, held from Monday to yesterday, showcased Cho’s work after she won her international illustration award last year.

Photo courtesy of Taipei Book Fair Foundation

Huang said that after the book fair began, Chinese diplomats told government officials in Bologna to refer to Cho’s works as “Taiwan, China,” not “Taiwan.”

“The event organizers felt helpless – they didn’t want to do it. And so their compromise was not to list any country names at all. No ‘Taiwan’ and no ‘China’,” he said.

The incident shows that China has extended its political pressure on Taiwan from sporting events to arts and culture, Huang said, urging the ministry to develop protocols for responding to such incidents.

Taiwan’s representative office in Italy said Chinese officials probably noticed Cho’s solo exhibition due to its prominent location near the entrance to the book fair, the vice culture minister said. Lee Ching-hwi (李靜慧).

Although organizers thought China’s request was “unreasonable”, a local government leader asked them to comply, and so they found their compromise, she said.

They chose to not only remove country labels from Cho’s works, but also from works exhibited by illustrators who had won the award in other years, she added.

Lee said his ministry and the Foreign Ministry have since contacted Bologna officials and Italian lawmakers to make Taiwan’s position on the incident known.

Cho, who lives in London, describes herself as a visual storyteller focused on illustration and animation.

His work has appeared in many animation festivals in Europe and Asia, as well as in publications such as The New York Times and The New Yorker.

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