Home / NEWS / Booker Prize backs down after backlash over nationality of Taiwanese author

Booker Prize backs down after backlash over nationality of Taiwanese author

The prestigious Man Booker International Prize on Wednesday performed a sudden U-turn on a controversial decision to change the nationality of a Taiwanese nominee to Chinese on its website.

The literary prize, one of the most revered in the world, sparked online outrage and complaints from the Taiwanese government last week after it caved in to pressure from Beijing to change the nationality of Wu Ming-yi, one of 13 longlisted authors, from “Taiwan” to “Taiwan, China.”

Mr Wu, 46, who was nominated for his book The Stolen Bicycle, had already raised objections with the Man Booker Foundation, saying on his Facebook page that the change to his nationality did not reflect “my personal position on this issue.”

After days of protests, Man Booker finally said it had reversed the decision following “additional guidance on the appropriate terminology from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office”.

Spokesperson Truda Spruyt said the changes would be made to the foundation’s materials.

“The country/territory of longlisted authors and translators will appear, and Wu Ming-yi will be listed as ‘Taiwan’,” she said.

“The prize is not about defining nationality; all global citizens are eligible, provided they are published in translation in the UK.”

Two youngTaiwanese men ride on a motorcycle while carrying a flag to celebrate the 86th founding anniversary of the nation in front of Presidential Palace in Taipei

In a reflection of the delicate nature of the issue, it also changed the listing from “nationality” to “country/territory.”

Last week Ms Spruyt told The Telegraph that “China” had been added to Mr Wu’s nationality after a complaint from the Chinese embassy.

The embassy would not confirm whether it had pressured the prize to do so, responding that its position on Taiwan was “consistent and clear”.

It added: “There is only one China in the world, and Taiwan is an inseparable part of China. This is the universal consensus of the international community.

“The moves by a few separatist forces can neither change this fact, hinder the development of relations across the Taiwan Strait, nor reverse the course of peaceful reunification of China.”

The row came after a series of similar scandals about China throwing its weight around over definitions of Taiwan in the commercial literature of major brands such as British Airways and Mercedes.

China claims the island democracy as its own territory, which will be eventually be reunited with the mainland – by force if necessary – and Beijing lobbies relentlessly to exclude Taiwan from global forums and undermine its legitimacy as its own nation.

Meanwhile, Taiwan’s population of 23 million operate their own government, currency, military and foreign policy and the majority of citizens identify as Taiwanese.

Taiwan only has 20 diplomatic allies in the world and the US and UK do not count among them, although they do have representative offices in Taipei, and are openly supportive of the inclusion of Taiwan in UN bodies and forums like the World Health Assembly.

When contacted about the Man Booker controversy, a Foreign Office spokeswoman said: “Our longstanding position with regards to Taiwan is clear and has not changed.”

According to a 2017 House of Commons briefing paper, the UK’s position is that the issue “should be resolved by Taiwan and the People’s Republic of China (PRC) ‘through dialogue, in line with the views of the people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait’”.

In a 1972 agreement with China, the UK also “acknowledges” China’s position that Taiwan is a province of China while stressing that London’s relations with Taiwan are on an economic basis and not government to government.

But the agreement also welcomes Taiwan’s “political development” and “democratic elections.”

Following the Man Booker announcement, supporters of Mr Wu took to the internet to celebrate a rare victory for Taiwan on the international stage.

“Our advocacy worked out!” exclaimed one Facebook user. “I’m so pleased Taiwan’s voice is finally being heard.”

Article Source : https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2018/04/04/booker-prize-backs-backlash-nationality-oftaiwanese-author/

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