TAIPEI, Taiwan - Taiwanese teenage entertainer Chou Tzu-yu has no need to apologise for holding a Republic of China national flag on a Korean TV show, an act that drew anger from mainland China, President Ma Ying-jeou said Saturday.
"She does not need to apologise, and we support her," Ma told reporters after casting his vote for the next president and Legislature in Taipei on Saturday morning.
Taiwanese people who identify with the R.O.C. and fly its flag both locally and internationally should be supported, Ma added.
Ma made the comments in response to the ongoing controversy surrounding Chou, also known as Tzuyu, the only Taiwanese member of the Korean girl group Twice.
A teary Chou made an apology in a video clip released late Friday in which she said sorry for holding an R.O.C. flag and identifying herself as Taiwanese.
Reading from a preprepared text with her voice shaking, the 16-year-old Taiwanese girl said in the clip that "there is only one China ... both sides of the Taiwan Strait are in unity; I have always felt proud of being Chinese."
She also said she was very sorry that her behaviour had "hurt the feelings of her company and netizens from both sides of the Taiwan Strait during overseas promotions."
Netizens and commentators in Taiwan believe Chou could have been coerced by her Korean agency, JYP Entertainment, to end the controversy and appease the group's fans in China.
Chou has already lost endorsements in China following the incident and China reportedly threatened to forbid all JYP Entertainment stars from performing in the country.
Asked to comment, Ma said Chou's apology was unnecessary. "We cannot accept it," he said.
The president stressed that the mainland Chinese authorities and mainland Chinese people should understand that those who truly embrace the R.O.C. will never be pro-Taiwan independence.
Asked to comment on the incident, the three presidential candidates and local politicians showed support for the teenager, stressing that her behaviour was justified and should not be attacked.
Representative to Offer Help to Chou
Meanwhile, Taiwan's Foreign Ministry expressed sympathy for the huge pressure laid upon Chou. Taiwan's representative office in Korea has contacted Chou's agency to firmly express the R.O.C. government's stance, the ministry said.
The office was also trying to contact Chou herself to express the government and the Taiwan people's support and to learn whether she needs further assistance, it said.
In related news, Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council called on its mainland Chinese counterpart to stop "doing things that could hurt Taiwanese people's feelings and restrain the behaviour of their people, or the incident could hinder cross-strait relations."
In response, China's Taiwan Affairs Office said the incident is an individual case that was used by "certain political powers in Taiwan with an aim to sabotage the cordial relations between the people of both sides."