A forum on cross-strait media issues held in China late last year was an outright insult to the autonomy of Taiwanese media because Beijing forced participating media outlets to endorse a six-point proposal for media issues.
The points included an exchange of media offices that many think would turn local media outlets into mouthpieces for China, especially as the heads of state-owned media outlets such as the Central News Agency and the Public Television Service participated in the forum.
It is little wonder that the forum attracted international attention, sparking debates about whether Taiwan is becoming a second Hong Kong.
President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration was also criticized for being stupid beyond belief because it knows full well that China has no press freedom.
Without any response plan in place, the media will end up being manipulated by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) like a puppet on a string.
There are no two ways about it. Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) is particularly tough when it comes to media control.
The new “Three Anti Campaign,” aimed at people opposed to the CCP, the state and ethnic Chinese, and Xi’s “Seven Speak-nots,” which prohibit talking about universal values, freedom of the press, an independent judiciary, citizen’s rights, civic society, past party mistakes and China’s new elite, are all aimed at strangling the media.
In addition, journalists cannot republish or cite reports from overseas news sources on microblogging Web sites without permission from the authorities.
The recent incident involving a journalist from the Xinkuai Daily (新快報), Chen Yongzhou (陳永洲), who had his head shaved and was forced to admit his alleged mistake, clearly demonstrates how the CCP kills a chicken to scare the monkey by making examples of those who break its rules.
In its report on press freedom last year, US-based watchdog Freedom House president David Kramer said China is still listed as lacking a free press and that this lack extends beyond its own borders, as China censors and filters news from other countries.
This is exemplified by the case of the 24 New York Times and Bloomberg reporters who had trouble with their visa extensions and were harassed by Chinese authorities last year.
When former Chinese president Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) was in office, China focused on using economic means to spur unification, which included signing the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement, but Hu did not do much about the media.
Xi has been different. He has copied former Chinese leader Mao Zedong (毛澤東), and focused on controlling the media.
For example, he has used Mao’s tactic of besieging the enemy and striking at its reinforcements to isolate mainstream Taiwanese media, while also applying non-mainstream quantitative changes to influence the mainstream.
With Chinese-language media outlets in the US, China has employed a carrot-and-stick approach, sparing no expense in staging forums, lectures and symposiums to recruit the enemy.
Chinese author He Qinglian (何清漣) has mentioned in her work that this approach is a unification tactic based entirely on separation and integration aimed at forcing media outlets and their writers and editors into submission.
The best contemporary example of this is the cross-strait media forum.
The organizers refused to invite the Chinese-language Liberty Times and the Apple Daily, two major Taiwanese newspapers, to the event.