Taiwanese singer Hebe Tien received a flood of backlash from Chinese netizens who accused her of being pro-Taiwan independence after posting a photo of herself eating spaghetti, connecting it to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-CA) Italian heritage.
Tien, who rose to fame as a member of the girl group S.H.E., posted the image on her Instagram story on Aug. 2, the same day Pelosi arrived in Taiwan, a trip China had strongly spoken out against in recent months.
China holds a “One China” policy, which maintains Taiwan as an inalienable part of the mainland. Taiwan, in contrast, declares itself independent, with its own democratic government and identity.
Although the U.S. officially upholds the “One China” principle, the country has increasingly strengthened its ties with the island, with Pelosi promising the U.S.’ “ironclad” commitment to Taiwan’s democracy during her meeting yesterday with Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen.
Due to the nature of the post’s timing, Chinese nationalists were convinced that Tien’s decision to eat spaghetti, an Italian dish, was a display of support for Pelosi’s visit to the island, linking the pasta to Pelosi’s Italian heritage.
A daily dose of Asian America's essential stories, in under 5 minutes.
Get our collection of Asian America's most essential stories to your inbox daily for free.
Unsure? Check out our Newsletter Archive.
Above the photo, Tien had captioned the story with the word ““Italian noodles” in Mandarin, which is the spelling used to mean “spaghetti” in the language.
Internet users accused Tien of supporting Pelosi, and in turn, supporting Taiwan’s independence from China.
Tien’s latest Weibo post has garnered over 133,000 comments and 790,000 likes, figures much higher than her usual 2,000 comments or so.
Multiple users posted screenshots of her Instagram story — which has since been deleted — of her eating spaghetti, with captions demanding that she “explain” herself.
Others reacted more aggressively, with some calling her “two-faced” and at least one user stating they have “wasted the years liking her.”
Top comments have received 40,000 to over 95,000 likes, pointing to the amount of circulation Tien’s post has received since it was posted on Tuesday.
The hashtag “Hebe is pro-Taiwanese independence” also went viral on Weibo.
Tien has yet to put out a public statement addressing the situation.