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Katy Perry's unintended political faux pas in Taiwan stole the limelight from her road-tested formula of visual extravaganza and infectious pop tunes at her first-ever concert there.
The American singer made headlines in Taiwan after she draped herself in the country's flag while performing "Unconditionally" at the Taipei Arena on Tuesday.
At the same time, the 30-year-old wore a glittery dress adorned with sunflowers, sparking references to last year's student-led protest, dubbed the "Sunflower movement." Tens of thousands of people, mainly young Taiwanese, had occupied the country's legislature and the area around it for three weeks in a bid to oppose a planned trade deal with the mainland.
Of course, the reference to the anti-China movement may not have been intentional. Sunflowers have been a common fixture in Perry's gigs since they first appeared on her "Prism" album cover released in October 2013. Perry has performed with a sunflower microphone and the politically-sensitive costume was also part of the singer's wardrobe when she toured Chinese cities including Guangzhou earlier this month.
But the performance in Taipei caused the "Firework" singer to be hailed as the "Sunflower Goddess" by some Taiwanese media, and local fans took to social media to praise her.
By contrast, mainland media have given the story the snub, with the gig reviews focused instead on Perry being two hours late for her maiden concert in Taipei. On Weibo - the Chinese version of Twitter by Sina - a search yielded few photos from the Taiwan gig, prompting one user to comment: "Have news and photos been censored already?"
And it seems so. According to Taiwan's Epoch Times, photos of Perry draping the Taiwanese flag were removed by China's censors Wednesday morning.
While there are Weibo users who condemned Perry's perceived support for Taiwan, a majority of Chinese said the American singer - nicknamed "Fruit Sister" among mainland fans - was unknowingly led to make a political statement by the audience.
"If Katy Perry didn't like China, would she have made Guangzhou her first stop in her Asia tour? Would she have called herself 'Fruit Sister'' at the concert? Katy Perry loves all KatyCats around the world. She wouldn't have liked to be made use of to make a political statement. She is not a politician," wrote one user.
Another Weibo user directed his or her anger at the Taiwanese fan in the moshpit who passed the flag to Perry. "I don't think Katy Perry knows the controversy behind carrying the Taiwanese flag, but whoever passed her the flag is disgusting to have dragged her into politics. Are you a real fan?"
While closer economic ties between China and Taiwan have been made under the stewardship of Taiwanese president Ma Ying-jeou, cross-straits relations remain nervous as Beijing stands firm on its reunification stance. The mainland and Taiwan split ways in 1949 during a civil war.
Beijing has been known to be particularly sensitive to performers who comment on Chinese politics. Local celebrities who supported last year's "Occupy Central" protests in Hong Kong allegedly received a ban on performing on the mainland. American saxophonist Kenny G removed a selfie taken at the city's demonstration site from his social media account after China's foreign ministry called on "foreign influences" to avoid meddling in China's affairs.
As of yet, "Fruit Sister" — a nickname Perry garnered because her costumes frequently use fruit themes — remains on course to perform in Macau this weekend. According to Chinese media, tickets for Perry's concerts in Guangzhou and Shanghai this month have been a box office success, with nearly 50 percent snapped up within half an hour on the first day of sales.
Perry has amassed 431,920 followers on Weibo since joining the microblogging site six months ago, beating fellow pop singers like Rihanna (213,690) and Justin Bieber (152,594), but still trailing behind pop princess Taylor Swift's staggering 4 million followers.