Sunflowers And Flags

Katy Perry created a bit of a diplomatic incident during her Taipei Arena show April 28, after grabbing a Taiwanese flag from an audience member and donning it as a cape over her dress, which was covered in sunflowers.

Photo: Evan Agostini / Invision/AP
Katy Perry and Jeremy Scott arrive at The Metropolitan Museum of Art's Costume Institute benefit gala celebrating "China: Through the Looking Glass" May 4 in New York. 

It may sound innocent enough, but the gesture apparently enraged authorities across the water in mainland China, who, according to various media, blocked any related images from the show on the Internet. That’s because the Taiwanese flag is a symbol of independence from China, which insists the island is an integral part of the People’s Republic. In addition, sunflowers symbolize an anti-mainland action that took place in March 2014 when students occupied the Taiwanese legislature for 23 days to protest a service trade agreement with China.

As Perry has worn sunflowers before, it’s not clear if she was making a political statement. By all appearances her decision to don the cape was done without much forethought. Nevertheless, according to the local Liberty Times, many in the audience were “moved to tears” by the gesture and other Taiwanese took to the Internet to express their thanks for what they assumed was Perry’s support for their cause.

Meanwhile, Chinese censors were busy removing images of the concert, and in their reports of the performance Chinese news sites “highlighted the hour’s worth of delays,” according to the Epoch Times. Chinese social media users also complained of Perry’s “lack of political sensitivity.” Naturally, the conversation soon turned to whether Perry would be barred from performing in China.

As it so happened, she had already played Shanghai and Guangzhou when she performed in Taipei, and wore the dress both times. She also later performed in Macau without incident. So far, the singer has not commented on the controversy, but the organizer of the Taiwan show, Fanta Integrated Marketing Co., told Taipei Times, “We did not prepare the flag for Katy Perry. The sunflower dress is part of her regular concert attire and there is no political implication for it.”