Sat, Feb 10, 2001 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: Treat Chinese reporters equally

Before Taiwan's representative in Hong Kong, Chung Hwa Travel Service manager Chang Liang-jen (張良任) arrived to take up his post, the territory's media fiercely debated about how much freedom of speech he would have there. The Ming Pao (明報) thought Chang should enjoy freedom of speech, but the Wen Wei Po (文匯報) thought Chang's speech should be confined by the Basic Law and Chinese Vice Premier Qian Qichen's (錢其琛) seven points. Now Taiwan faces a similar situation. Two reporters for China's official Xinhua News Agency, Fan Liqing (范麗青) and Chen Binhua (陳斌華), have arrived in Taiwan for a month-long posting. What about their freedom of speech?

China and Taiwan are still rivals. The KMT vividly remembers the contribution made to its defeat by the Communist Party of China's (CPC) infiltration of the media and incitement of anti-government sentiment. Not long ago Taiwan's national security body warned against Chinese infiltration and requested close surveillance. Now two reporters, both members of the CPC, have been assigned to cover Taiwan. In the future, more Chinese reporters will be arriving. The very thought makes us wary. Some have advocated surveillance of these reporters, restrictions on their movements and limiting the subjects they can cover. Such restrictions are unnecessary.

The regulations covering Chinese reporters' posting to Taiwan contain language such as "no violation of public order and good customs." The relevant authorities are also requested to keep close tabs on the reporting done by these journalists -- a clear indication of the government's anxiety. The regulations mirror those imposed by China's Taiwan Affairs Office on Taiwanese reporters.

Given the high degree of press freedom that exists in Taiwan, reporting has become a free-for-all. It is hard to imagine losing sleep over how much freedom of expression should be allowed to reporters. These Xinhua, and other Chinese, reporters should be treated no differently from any other members of the foreign press corps here and enjoy the same degree of freedom, both in speech and movement. For their part, Chinese reporters should also demonstrate professionalism compatible with our free society, put aside communist theories and the Chinese media's obligation to work for the CPC and stick to reporting on events in Taiwan accurately.

In the past, the KMT had a phobia about the communists, seeing infiltrators and spies everywhere. In view of Taiwan's democracy, respect for human rights and wealth, as well as the several million visits to China made by Taiwanese business people and tourists each year, the gap in development between the two sides should be a foregone conclusion. The best protection is, of course, openness, to allow Taiwanese to see the poverty of China for themselves, and to appreciate the emptiness of that culturally ravaged society.

Given this, we should not fear Chinese reporters or restrict their freedom of expression. Let's hope that Fan and Chen can get an understanding of Taiwan society that they can pass on to the people across the Strait.

Irrespective of what the future holds for cross-strait integration, greater cross-strait interaction is inevitable. Exchanges between reporters from the two sides facilitate understanding and decrease misunderstandings. That is also what China's Association for Relations Across Taiwan Strait (海協會) and Taiwan's Straits Exchange Foundation (海基會) have tried to accomplish. Due to mutual distrust, a mechanism for news exchanges has never been established. The arrival of these two Chinese reporters is a first step. It is up to the reporters themselves to decide whether the path taken is toward greater understanding or the reinforcement of old prejudices.

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