Taiwan director Doze Niu gets suspended sentence in naval base ploy

Taiwan director Doze Niu gets suspended sentence in naval base ploy
Taiwanese director Doze Niu's movie, Paradise In Service was inspired by a newspaper article by a man who had done his national service in a military brothel.

TAIPEI - Acclaimed Taiwanese director Doze Niu received a suspended sentence for taking a Chinese cinematographer onto a naval base in Taiwan without authorisation to scout film locations, a court ruled Friday.

Niu was sentenced to five months in prison with a two-year probation, alongside a Tw$600,000 (S$26,000) fine and 60 hours of community service, for violating a law that bans Chinese nationals from entering Taiwanese military facilities, said the southern Kaohsiung district court.

Known for the Taiwanese blockbusters "Monga" and "Love", Niu had repeatedly applied to the defence ministry to take cinematographer Cao Yu to scout locations for his military drama "Paradise in Service" at a naval base last year but was rejected.

However, Cao entered the base in June last year by getting on a bus with the rest of Niu's crew members who were on the approved list of visitors and also boarded a naval ship.

The navy decided to withdraw all assistance to Niu after the incident came to light and reported him to prosecutors.

The court said in a statement that it handed out a suspended sentence since the director had no prior criminal record and had confessed, while Cao had not jeopardised defence secrets during the scouting.

The court "believes that the investigation and the trial will serve as a warning to deter (Niu) from committing the same act."

"Service in Paradise" has six nominations in the upcoming Golden Horse Film Awards, touted as the Chinese-language Oscars, including best supporting actor and best supporting actresses.

Ties between Taiwan and China have improved markedly since 2008 when the island's Beijing-friendly government took power. However, security concerns linger despite the easing of political tensions as the former bitter rivals have been spying on each other since they split in 1949 after a civil war.

In 2011, Taiwan's defence ministry told travel agencies not to bring Chinese tourists to military camps, citing concerns that some might be spies, amid a security scare after one mainland group entered a base.

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