Just over a week after the People's Republic of China's foreign minister chewed out an Ottawa reporter, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has delivered a warm opening greeting to attendees to the Vancouver Taiwan Film Festival.
Vancouver Centre Liberal MP Hedy Fry read the letter aloud today (June 10) at the Vancity Theatre.
“It is with pleasure that I welcome you to the 2016 Vancouver Taiwanese film festival," Fry said on Trudeau's behalf. "Over more than 100 years, Taiwan’s film industry has gained prominence for the high quality and entertaining films to emerge. This festival allows Vancouver residents an unmissable opportunity to embrace the unique Taiwanese cinema and embrace a diverse set of films.
"Canada derives its strength from our diversity and it is important that Canadians of all backgrounds see their culture reflected in the media and in the arts," Fry continued as she quoted from Trudeau's letter. "For Taiwanese Canadians, this is a chance to reconnect with the rich Taiwanese heritage. All Canadians can benefit from a deeper connection with Taiwanese culture because it is through that culture that we understand the people themselves.
"Thank you to the organizers to this incredible event and to all of you who are in attendance to enjoy the Taiwanese film festival," the statement from the prime minister continued. "Please accept my warmest greetings and best wishes for a memorable event.”
Taiwan (Republic of China) is an independent nation of 23 million on an island across Taiwan Strait from the People's Republic of China. Taiwan is approximately the same size as Vancouver Island and became home to Chinese nationalist followers of Chiang Kai-shek when he fled Chairman Mao Zedong's forces at the end of the Chinese Civil War in 1949.
Under former prime minister Pierre Trudeau, Canada severed diplomatic relations with Taiwan in 1970. Trudeau's government established diplomatic relations with the People's Republic of China as the official representative of the Chinese people, and Trudeau himself paid an official visit to Beijing in 1973.
That's the backdrop for the recent dustup in relations.
On June 1, China's foreign minister, Wang Yi, told an Ottawa-based iPolitics reporter that it was "irresponsible" to ask a question about human rights and the imprisonment of Canadian Kevin Garratt in China. Wagging his finger at the reporter, Wang declared that the question was "full of prejudice" and "arrogance" against China.
It caused an uproar in diplomatic circles. And two days later, Justin Trudeau said that Canadian government officials, including Foreign Minister Stéphane Dion, had expressed their dissatisfaction to Wang and China's ambassador to Canada over the incident.
Meanwhile, at the opening of the Vancouver Taiwan Film Festival, Fry declared that she fell in love with Taiwan after a visit there earlier this year.
In particular, she praised Taiwan's arts and culture, noting how that country's Cloud Gate Dance Theatre thrilled Vancouverites during the 2010 Winter Games.
"They just took our breath away," Fry said. "They were such fabulous dancers with such great muscle coordination, tone, and stamina to be able to do the great dances that they did."
The opening was attended by the following politicians in addition to Fry: Liberal MLA John Yap, NDP MLAs Bruce Ralston and Raj Chouhan, Vancouver acting mayor Raymond Louie, and Burnaby councillor Anne Kang.
Kang, who was born in Taiwan, has been nominated as the NDP candidate in Burnaby–Deer Lake in the next provincial election.
The festival's opening film was The Moment.
The director general of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Vancouver, Tom Lee, told the Straight that anyone who watches the film will leave with a deep understanding of how Taiwanese cinema has developed over the past 50 years.