Taiwanese film Missing Johnny has been banned from screens in China over its main actor, who is said to be in favour of independence for the island nation.

China’s Taiwan Affairs Office spokesperson An Fengshan was asked about the lead actor Lawrence Ko’s alleged pro-independence stance during a regular press conference on Wednesday.

He said that the relevant departments have said that they would not allow films with performers who support Taiwan independence to be shown in China.

missing johnny
Missing Johnny. Photo: Facebook/Taipei Film Festival.

“If these Taiwanese artists recognise the harm and error of ‘Taiwan independence’ and make changes in their thoughts and behaviour, we will welcome it. Currently the matter of the film being shown in the mainland has been shelved.”

According to Taiwan’s United Daily News, Missing Johnny was to be released in the mainland on April 13. The film was also screened last year at the Shanghai International Film Festival. The feature is director Huang Xi’s debut and follows three young people whose paths cross in Taipei.

An’s comments follow posts on Chinese social media by a pro-unification account that aims to “call out” independence supporters.

The “Voice of Reunification” account said that Ko is a member of the pro-independence New Power Party and posted screenshots of news articles saying that Ko supported the pro-independence stance of his father – actor and director I-Chen Ko.

The film’s Taiwan distributor Mirror Stage Films told HKFP it received notice from its distribution partner in China that the release of Missing Johnny had been postponed.

missing johnny

“But they didn’t specifically indicate the reason and we don’t want to guess and assume the reason. The Taiwan Affairs Office did say it’s Lawrence Ko’s pro-independence speech that caused [it],” it said in a statement.

“The Missing Johnny team is watching the development cautiously. We still hope more people [can] see this elegant film about love and life.”

The film was nominated for best original film score and best new director in Taiwan’s Golden Horse awards last year. Actress Rima Zeidan won a Golden Horse award last year for her role in the film.

Chinese President Xi Jinping reiterated China’s strong stance against calls for independence at the closing session of the National People’s Congress this month, saying it was in line with China’s fundamental interest to safeguard the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country and achieve full reunification.

“We should continue to stick to the one-China principle, 92 consensus, and advance the peaceful development of the cross-strait relations, and expand the economic and cultural exchange between the two sides,” he said.

Catherine is a Canadian journalist and photographer who lived in Beijing for almost two years, working in TV and online media. Aside from Hong Kong and mainland affairs, she is also interested in urban spaces, art and feminism. She holds a BA in Literature and Art History from the University of British Columbia.