China's film regulator said on Wednesday it was preventing the mainland film industry from participating in Taiwan's Golden Horse Awards, without giving a reason, at the latest sign of growing tension between Beijing and the self-governing island.
China Film News, a magazine published by the China Film Administration, made the announcement on its official WeChat account.
"The China Film Administration says it will suspend films from the continent and prevent its employees from participating in the 55 2019 Golden Horse Award," he said.
The decision comes after the annual event, the Chinese version of the Oscars, became a starting point for questions about Taiwan's independence last year, sparking a debate between Taiwanese and mainland stars as well as netizens.
Ties between Beijing and Taipei have tightened, with China announcing last week that it would stop issuing individual travel permits to Taiwan to Chinese travelers in a blow to Taiwan's tourism industry.
"We would certainly be sorry if it were true," Taiwan's Golden Horse Film Festival said in a statement. Related events will be held as scheduled, he said.
Beijing has used the international scene to assert its claim to sovereignty over Taiwan amid growing Chinese pressure, which also includes military exercises. Taipei has repeatedly said that Chinese initiatives aim to manipulate its presidential elections in January.
"The incident shows that mainland China is using politics to interfere with cultural exchange," the Taiwan Affairs Council said in a statement. "This will lead to negative sentiment among international and cross-strait parties."
Shanghai film critic Dong Shu said the Golden Horse awards were a good platform for film exchanges between China, Taiwan and Hong Kong.
"But some people in Taiwan had to have politically sensitive content, things that crossed the red lines to mainland China, so the nature of this award has changed," Dong said.
The Golden Horse Awards was founded on 1962 and is considered one of the most prestigious awards in the Chinese language film industry, with submissions mainly from mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan.
The Chinese film "Dying to Survive" won and was nominated in 7 categories last year, while Chinese director Zhang Yimou won the award for best director for his movie "Shadow."
Taiwan is self-governing and has a democratically elected leadership, but China claims the island as a separatist province and has not ruled out the use of force to ensure unification.
The question of Taiwan's formal independence is one of Beijing's most sensitive political concerns.
China's content regulator is also taking a cautious stance on the media industry itself in the run-up to the 70 anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China on 1 October, removing some blockbusters and banning historic idol dramas and dramas.
Reports of the suspension quickly became a trending topic at Weibo China, a Twitter-like microblogging service, with a related hashtag receiving over 68 million views by Wednesday morning.
“Taiwan made this political award first, don't we have the right to punch back?” Said a commentator from Weibo.
Others expressed disappointment at the decision.
“Politics aside, this is a losing situation. There is no impartial prize in mainland China, what a pity! ”Said another commentator.