The Want Want China Times Group went on the offensive on Tuesday after the Chinese-language Liberty Times (the Taipei Times’ sister newspaper) carried a story about Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) legislators criticizing a visit by a Chinese Communist Party (CCP) official to CtiTV and the “supplicant” manner in which the group’s chairman welcomed the official.
CtiTV, part of the China Times Group acquired by food conglomerate Want Want in November 2008, dedicated an entire hour-long program on Tuesday night, with special guests including Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Alex Tsai (蔡正元), attacking the Liberty Times and its founder, and alleging that the Liberty Times’ poll center had faked a poll following Sunday’s debate between President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and DPP Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) on an economic cooperation framework agreement (ECFA) with China.
The Chinese-language China Times continued the offensive with six articles targeting the Liberty Times yesterday, including a front-page story and an editorial.
On its front page on Monday, the China Times quoted Want Want chairman Tsai Eng-meng (蔡衍明) as saying during the visit on Sunday: “On behalf of all colleagues at Want Want Group, I welcome CCP Hubei Provincial Committee Secretary Luo Qingquan (羅清泉).”
Luo’s tour included a visit to the CtiTV newsroom.
“After its initial investments in Hubei Province, Want Want Group is confident that investments in Hubei will expand in the future,” Tsai Eng-meng said. “We welcome Luo’s visit here to give us his guidance [蒞臨指導, lilin zhidao] and thank you for your support,” he said.
Luo is leading a 1,000-strong delegation from Hubei to enhance exchanges between his province and Taiwan. The delegation is expected to make more than US$500 million in purchases during the visit, organizers say.
DPP Legislator William Lai (賴清德) said Tsai Eng-meng seemed oblivious to the constitutional status of independent media, adding that the tendency in China to “seek the wisdom” of Chinese officials had no place in Taiwanese media or in a democratic society.
The executive deputy editor at the China Times played down the accusation on Monday night, saying the “seeking the wisdom” reference was polite language. He added that only “bored people” would make a fuss over this.
DPP Legislator Chen Ting-fei (陳亭妃), however, said the language made it very clear that the Chinese were the main objects of dependence, adding that using such vocabulary to welcome Chinese officials was not accidental.
The China Times Group also owns the Commercial Times, the China Times Weekly magazine, Want Daily and China Television Co, which was formerly controlled by the KMT. All have a pro-China editorial line.
The Hong-Kong-listed Want Want, whose main market is China but also sells in Taiwan and Hong Kong, has a 51 percent controlling stake in China Times Group.
In February last year, Want Want signed a preliminary deal to acquire a 47.58 percent stake in Asia Television (ATV) in Hong Kong, which in recent years has been accused of adopting a pro-Beijing line. Tsai Eng-meng is currently locked in a court battle over control of the broadcaster.
Want Want also operates hotels in the Chinese cities of Shanghai, Nanjing, Huai’an and Xining.
The Liberty Times said yesterday it planned to take legal action against the Want Want China Times Group over “groundless accusations.”