(Corrects to say China Film Administration made announcement via its official magazine)
* China suspends movies, stars from Taiwan awards
* No reason given
* Golden Horse Awards politicised in 2018 over Taiwan
SHANGHAI/TAIPEI, Aug 7 (Reuters) - China’s film regulator on Wednesday said it was suspending mainland Chinese movies and their personnel from participating in Taiwan’s annual Golden Horse Awards this year, without giving a reason.
The China Film News, a magazine published by the China Film Administration, made the announcement on its official WeChat account.
The move comes after the event, the Chinese-speaking world’s version of the Oscars, last year became a lightning rod for questions about Taiwanese independence, sparking a debate between Taiwanese and mainland stars as well as netizens.
The state of ties between Beijing and the self-ruled island has since become more tense, with China announcing that it would stop issuing individual travel permits for Taiwan to Chinese travellers last week, dealing a blow to the island’s tourism industry.
“We certainly would feel regret if it was true,” Taiwan’s Golden Horse Film Festival said in a statement, adding that related events will be held as scheduled.
Beijing has been using the international stage to assert its sovereignty over the island amid rising Chinese pressure, which also includes military drills. Taipei repeatedly said the Chinese moves were aiming to manipulate the island’s presidential elections in January.
“From an industry point of view, the Golden Horse was a good platform for exchanges on films among mainland, Taiwan and Hong Kong,” said Dong Shu, a Shanghai-based film critic.
“But some people in Taiwan had to get politically sensitive content on it, things that crossed red lines for mainland China, thus the nature of this award has been changed.”
Taiwan is self-governed and has a democratically elected leadership, but China claims the island as a breakaway 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 has also been taking an extra-cautious stance over its media industry in the run-up to the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic, on Oct. 1, pulling off a few blockbusters and banning “entertainment-driven” historical dramas and idol dramas.
Reports of the suspension soon became a trending topic on China’s Weibo, a Twitter-like microblogging service, with one related hashtag receiving more than 68 million views Wednesday morning.
“Taiwan made this award political first, don’t we have a right to punch back?” said a Weibo commentator.
Others expressed disappointment at the decision.
“Politics aside, this is a lose-lose situation. There isn’t an impartial and matchable award in mainland China, what a pity!” said another commentator. (Reporting by Brenda Goh in Shanghai, Pei Li in Beijing and Yimou Lee in Taipei; Editing by Michael Perry)