Is ROC flag scandal-embroiled singer coming home?

Chou Tzu-yu, the 16-year-old Taiwanese member of the K-Pop group Twice, apologized for showing a Republic of China flag on Korean television.

Story highlights

  • A pop culture website in Taiwan has offered to buy the scandal-embroiled singer out of her contract
  • Her managers have denied that a deal is in the works
  • Chou attracted political controversy by waving an Republic of China flag on television

(CNN)Could 3 million US dollars bring a singer home?

That might just happen to Chou Tzu-yu, the 16-year-old Taiwanese member of the Korean girls' group Twice who became embroiled in political controversy after waving a Republic of China flag on TV.
    Prompted by her apology and announcement she was taking a break from all activities in the mainland Chinese market for allegedly offending fans there, Juksy, a Taiwanese pop culture news site, offered to buy her out of her contract up to 100 million New Taiwan dollars (2.98 million US dollars) and bring the singer back to Taiwan.
    "We're saddened and heartbroken by the political pressure faced by an inexperienced 16-year-old Taiwanese girl," Juksy said in a statement.
    "We've decided to stand up and give her a new possibility, a new choice."

    What's in a flag?

    Chou's troubles started with Twice's appearance on My Little Television, a show on Korea's MBC network, back in November 2015.
    In it, group members from different countries waved the national flags of South Korea and their countries of origin.
    Chou, the only Taiwanese member, waved a Republic of China flag, representing Taiwan in front of cameras. Mainland China uses a separate flag.
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    Her appearance caught the attention of Huang An, a Taiwanese former singer who's been based in Beijing for more than a decade and a history of attacking entertainers that are not pro-Beijing.
    Calling himself "Independence Buster", Huang is known for going after Taiwanese and Hong Kong entertainers with so-called 'separatist' beliefs on Weibo, China's Twitter equivalent.
    He and Chan Ching-sum, a pro-China firebrand in Hong Kong, have been targeting singers and actors who express political views different from that of the Chinese Communist Party, claiming that they should not be allowed to appear in Chinese events or on Chinese television as a result.
    At least seven such entertainers have seen their appearance in Chinese venues canceled, closely following the 'revelatory' tweets by the duo.
    He targeted Chou in early January, tweeting vehemently as she was about to appear on a Chinese New Year television gala, generating more ire on social media from mainland Chinese social media users.

    Concession to China

    In what appeared to be a concession to the lucrative size of the mainland Chinese market, Chou appeared in a web video to issue an apology.
    "There's only one China," said a visibly pale Chou, her voice creaking.
    "I've always been proud of being Chinese," she said reading from a script.
    "In the course of my activities abroad as a Chinese person, I misbehaved and misspoke. This has hurt the management and the feelings of Internet users in both China and Taiwan."
    "I have decided to suspended all activities in China and reflect seriously," she concluded.
    After Chou's video apology was released, Huang gloated victoriously on Weibo.
    "After all this waiting, this day has finally come! We have clung back a good child who approves of the motherland," he tweeted.

    Deal or no deal?

    Chou's agency, JYP Entertainment, a major talent company behind some of K-pop's biggest stars like the Wonder Girls and 2PM, denies that any negotiation to cut Chou's contract short is underway, saying it "has no factual basis," reports Taiwan's official news agency CNA.
    The entertainment company also denied accusations that it forced Chou to apologize, saying that they waited for her parents to come to Korea and discuss the matter with her, before making the decision to apologize.
    Some South Korean Internet users have turned the heat on JYP, chiding them for not protecting a young girl who doesn't understand politics.
    Others have left mostly supportive messages for the singer, better known as Tzuyu, on Twitter using the hashtag #standbyyu.
    The video has sparked a wider national debate about the Taiwanese identity during its presidential elections.
    The new president-elect Tsai Ing-wen referenced the incident in her speech and her defeated Kuomintang opponent Eric Chu expressed support for the teenager as well.
    "This is too cruel to a 16-year-old. You're welcome to come home," Chu posted on his Facebook.