Katy Perry is known for her quirky costumes but her latest outfit was annoyingly controversial for fans in mainland China. During a concert in Taipei last week, Perry draped herself in the island’s flag, before revealing a glittering gold dress adorned with sunflowers – a symbol used by Taiwanese opponents of a trade pact with mainland China last year.
Some Taiwanese fans dissolved into tears on seeing her outfit, promising to “love her forever”.
Nevertheless, it’s not at all clear that Perry intended to make quite such a political statement. Some members of the audience have claimed that the flag was actually a gift presented to the singer by an ardent fan. Moreover, the sunflower theme is nothing new, with a similar style on show at some of the singer’s earlier performances. Last June, Perry was seen performing in the United States with back-up singers dressed as sunflowers, while the singer also wore a similar sunflower dress during performances in Guangzhou and Shanghai earlier in April.
Her Taipei gig, however, quickly sparked controversy on the mainland. “I’m so disappointed seeing Fruit Sister (Perry’s nickname in China since she has a tendency to don fruit-inspired costumes) wear the Taiwanese flag,” one exclaimed.
“I used to be your fan but the fact that you waved the Taiwan flag in the concert makes me very sad. I hope wherever you go next time you will pay attention to the political sensitivity,” another advised.
“So she gave up 1.3 billion (China’s population) for 23 million (in Taiwan)… Don’t people say Americans can’t do maths?” a sterner critic mocked.
Others defended Perry, saying that she must have been oblivious to the political connotations.
“She has to be innocent… I don’t think the US teaches students about the delicate relationship between China and Taiwan,” one netizen suggested.
Meanwhile, photos of Perry draped in the flag were quickly deleted from Chinese search engine Baidu, with some fans lamenting the possibility that Fruit Sister could be blacklisted from performing again in China in the future. In the past, Beijing has banned artists who “threaten national sovereignty”. Most famously, Taiwanese singer A-mei was blacklisted after she sang the island’s anthem at former President Chen Shui-bian’s inauguration in 2000.
Jazz musician Kenny G also incurred Beijing’s wrath when he showed up at the Occupy Central protests in Hong Kong last October and tweeted a photo of himself mingling with the demonstrators (see WiC258). The saxophonist later issued a statement saying that he wasn’t sending a political message. “I don’t really know anything about the situation and my impromptu visit to the site was just part of an innocent walk around Hong Kong,” the American star pleaded.
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