Thu, Nov 18, 2004 - Page 1 News List

China forces APEC to scrap Taiwan ad

`INAPPROPRIATE' A television commercial describing Taiwan as a `nation' caused China to request the APEC Secretariat to remove the `politically oriented' ad

By Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTER , IN SANTIAGO, CHILE

A passer-by inspects a subway advertisement in Santiago, Chile, to promote Taiwan's image. The poster is part of Taiwan's presence at the 2004 APEC meeting being held in that city until Sunday.

PHOTO: YEH CHIH-MING, TAIPEI TIMES

The Taiwan delegation at this year's Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting on Tuesday expressed dismay over the APEC Secretariat's caving in to pressure by China, who requested that Taiwan remove a promotional commercial it said was "inappropriate" and "politically oriented."

The diplomatic wrangling between the two political arch-rivals broke out six days before the two-day informal leaders' summit, or the APEC Economic Leaders' Meeting, takes center stage on Saturday in Santiago, Chile.

Refusing to compromise the nation's dignity, Taiwan on Tuesday opted to remove a commercial that incurred protests from Beijing, after two days of fruitless negotiations with the organizers.

Advertisements running in local newspapers, weeklies and on subway trains, however, were to be launched yesterday as scheduled. The ads were part of the government's NT$10 million promotion campaign during the annual international event.

Beijing lodged two written protests with the APEC Secretariat on Sunday against a TV commercial produced by the Government Information Office (GIO) and screened at the International Media Center, requesting that it be removed immediately.

China claimed that the use of the word "nation" in the ad went against the "consensus" and "normal practice" of the annual conference. It also charged that the wording of the ad was clearly "inappropriate" and "politically oriented."

The two-minute, four-segment commercial, dubbed into English, related that Taiwan has struggled "from humble beginnings, laboring in the fields," but gradually worked toward "building a nation one day at a time."

"The people of Taiwan have realized the dream of a better tomorrow and succeeded in creating a prosperous modern society. At the dawn of the 20th century, Taiwan has already walked toward an even brighter future," the commercial said.

Responding to China's protests, the APEC Secretariat requested that Taiwan edit the content. Two days of negotiations with the Secretariat and the local contractor running the ad for Taiwan were in vain, according to Deputy Delegation Spokesman David Lee (李南陽), who flew to Santiago on Monday to conduct the negotiations and supervise the event.

"I told Director Rose Marie Graepp of the APEC Press and Communications Department that it was unacceptable to edit the content because each member economy of the organization should be on an equal footing when promoting their own country. The request was a humiliation of our national dignity and a heinous move to belittle our international status," he said.

Graepp told Lee that the ad had created "sensitivity for another economy" and caused the host country "inconvenience."

Lee said that it was unfathomable why China made such a big fuss about the matter since the message in the ad did not violate any APEC principles or regulations.

"I don't know why they make a mountain out of a molehill," he said. "Besides, building a nation can have different meanings."

Although Lee said that it was not surprising to see China exert pressure on the nation at the international event, he did not expect to eventually withdraw the ad.

"We expect China's petty maneuvers because it's not the first time and it'll definitely not be the last time [that this will happen]," he said.

Since the nation joined the regional economic bloc in 1991, China has been engaging in flagrant efforts to suppress Taiwan. Its back-room bullying reached a climax in 2001, when the nation was forced to excuse itself from the leaders' summit.

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