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Film director probed for ruse at Taiwan naval base

July 4, 2013

TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) — A celebrated Taiwanese director could face criminal charges over a ruse that let an award-winning Chinese cinematographer use false papers to visit a Taiwanese naval base to scout sights for a new feature film.

Niu Chen-zer has apologized for his “negligence” in not paying attention to the law barring mainland Chinese from entering sensitive military establishments.

In August, Niu is set to begin shooting “Military Paradise,” which tells the story of a group of Taiwanese soldiers stationed in the offshore island of Quemoy during the protracted 1958 Chinese bombing campaign against that isolated target.

“I might have gone overboard in order to make a better film,” Niu said on his Facebook page.

On Thursday, the Defense Ministry said Niu risked endangering military security by violating the law against “unauthorized entry into military establishments,” and affirmed it will hand over the case to prosecutors to consider bringing charges.

The ministry said it expected prosecutors to charge cinematographer Cao Yu as well. Violating the law carries a maximum five years in jail.

A Defense Ministry statement said it regretted the director had misused the military’s good intentions to support the movie industry.

Atom Cinema, which is to produce “Military Paradise,” refused to comment on the fate of the feature film if Niu is charged. China’s Huayi Brothers is a main financier of the $8.3 million movie.

Cao visited the Tsoying Naval Base with a local film crew on June 1, carrying the identity card of a Taiwanese man, according to the Apple Daily newspaper.

Niu did not provide details on how Cao gained access to the base. The ministry said it had rejected a request for Cao to visit in May but he did so subsequently using false papers.

Taiwan and China split amid civil war in 1949. While relations have improved dramatically under the China-friendly government of Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou, China still threatens the use of force against the democratic island, and the Taiwanese military remains committed to maintaining strong defenses against a possible Chinese attack.

Cao twice won photography awards from Taiwan’s Golden Horse movie festival, where Chinese success has underscored the close cinematic ties between Taiwan and the mainland.

It’s unclear if he was to be the main cinematographer for “Military Paradise,” which stars Taiwanese actor Ethan Juan.

“Military Paradise” was to be filmed on the base, and the military had agreed to assist the filmmakers, but spokesman Yan Chen-kuo told Taiwanese media the navy would back off its promise to provide sailors to assist in the filming.