SCMP Wednesday, May 24, 2000

Mainland unplugs Taiwanese pop star

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE in Beijing


Beijing has punished Taiwanese pop star Sherry Chang Huei-mei for singing the island's national anthem at President Chen Shui-bian's inauguration.

Despite her immense popularity on the mainland, state-owned television stations, newspapers and billboard owners have been ordered to stop running a Sprite commercial featuring the singer, Coca-Cola China said yesterday.

"We received notice on Friday they will stop playing the advertisements. They didn't explain the reasons. They just said they received orders from above," said Brenda Lee, a spokeswoman for Coca-Cola.

The move risked a backlash from the vast following of Chang, known as "A-mei", who is also a big star in Hong Kong. Internet chatrooms were buzzing yesterday, with patriotic fans saying they felt betrayed by the singer's actions while others were confused about the fuss.

A woman at China Central Television said the state-owned station was no longer running the Sprite commercial. "She's a Taiwan independence supporter," the woman said, when asked why the commercial was pulled. Billboard ads showing the pop star have been replaced by plain Coca-Cola or Sprite ads in Beijing, Shanghai and other cities as the nationwide ban went in force.

Music stores, however, were still selling A-mei CDs and tapes. A spokeswoman at the Shanghai Audio Video Company, which has the rights to sell A-mei recordings, said the company had not received any orders to stop selling the products.