Popstar Katy Perry took the stage in Taipei this week in a glittery dress covered with sunflowers, which happen to be the emblem of Taiwan’s anti-China protests last year. She also draped herself in the flag of the Republic of China (Taiwan), a symbol of the island’s continued separation from China, and one that is allegedly so unpalatable to Beijing that it was pulled from the 2012 Olympic Games arena.
As Perry took the stage at the Taipei Arena in the politically-charged costume, some members of the crowd were “moved to tears,” the Taiwanese newspaper Liberty Times Net reported—though it is far from clear if she intended to make a political statement.
“I don’t even know how to speak Mandarin. That’s what you speak, right?” she asked the crowd, according to a video posted on Youku.
The underlying message of Taiwan’s “Sunflower Revolution” protests, as with Hong Kong’s Umbrella Movement, was the desire for continued self-determination. The Sunflower protests lasted for several weeks and included the occupation of parliament by dozens of students. China regards Taiwan as a renegade province, not a sovereign nation, a view that many in Taiwan have rejected for generations.
Perry’s attire was quickly embraced by some Taiwanese fans. “Singing with a national flag of the Republic of China. So moving,” wrote one thrilled fan about the concert.
It is entirely possible that, like musician Kenny G at the Hong Kong protests, Perry just bumbled into a situation that could infuriate the Chinese government and affect her net income for the rest of her life. China is a huge market for concerts and album sales, and the government has banned artists in the past who “threaten national sovereignty.”
The sunflower dress is part of a recurring theme, as a fan noted a week before the Taiwan show, and Perry has performed with a “sunflower” microphone since at least last June, when she appeared in Raleigh, N.C. with backup singers dressed as sunflowers.
Perry will play in Macau—a special autonomous region of China—this coming weekend. She toured mainland China earlier this month, playing concerts in Guangzhou and Shanghai—and as Shanghaist reported at the time, she also wore the sunflower dress.
The Taiwan flag cape, though, was new to the Taipei show. Photos and references to it were quickly being deleted from Baidu and other social media in China this morning, to the frustration of netizens, one of whom asked “Can’t we discuss a fact? If she wears the flag, she wears it.”
Some Chinese fans, who refer to Perry as “Fruit Sister” because of her fondness for produce-themed costumes, were not pleased with her choice of attire in Taipei. One wrote on Sina Weibo:
I’m speechless over Fruit Sister. I suppose she has no chance to come to the mainland anymore, though she might not care. These performers who intervene in other countries’ politics are the most annoying.
Others were more sympathetic. “Such a sad feeling,” one Weibo user wrote. “Poor Fruit Sister.”