US Representative Dana Rohrabacher is threatening to end his strong legislative support for Taiwan as a result of Chunghwa Telecom’s (CHT, 中華電信) decision to terminate satellite services for “pro--democracy” channel New Tang Dynasty Television (新唐人電視台, NTDTV).
“If Taiwan does not support the struggle for freedom of thought within China, I see no need for America to support Taiwan,” Rohrabacher said in a letter sent on Wednesday to President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九).
Rohrabacher, a California Republican, has been one of the most ardent pro-Taiwan representatives in Washington.
Over the past few months he has been urging US President Barack Obama to sell advanced F-16 fighter jets to Taiwan.
Two years ago, he resigned from the Taiwan Caucus after saying that Ma was working with autocratic China rather than fighting it.
Rohrabacher said in his letter to Ma: “As a founder of the Taiwan Caucus in the US House of Representatives, I have always felt that democracy and freedom are bonds that tie our two nations together.”
“I would be interested to know if CHT’s decision does reflect higher state policy. The democratic government of Taiwan should be encouraging the spread of ideas favoring freedom and traditional values across the Strait,” he said.
He is seeking a full explanation of why CHT has refused to renew its agreement with NTDTV.
New Tang Dynasty relies on CHT for broadcast services in both Taiwan and China. NTDTV was founded by members of Falun Gong. Beijing has tried to stop the pro-democracy broadcasts in the past and maintains a stringent regime of censorship.
In a statement issued by his office, the congressman said that Taiwan’s Ministry of Transportation and Communications is the largest shareholder of CHT and its board includes several government officials.
The statement added that Rohrabacher, chairman of the US House Foreign Affairs subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, held a hearing on April 6 exploring the important role broadcasting plays in the promotion of democratic sentiments in tyrannical regimes, including China.
“This action by Chunghwa Telecom is another step in the long road of free nations disarming themselves in the fight against Chinese communist repression,” Rohrabacher’s letter said.
“NTD broadcasts to China help break the Chinese blockade on free information and have a multiplying effect that add to what Voice of America and the Board of Broadcast Governors do to bring truth to the people of China,” he said. “The Chinese regime spends billions every year on worldwide propaganda efforts while free broadcasting to China is being dramatically reduced.”
NTDTV has said in a statement it has been leasing CHT’s ST-1 satellite to air programs from overseas.
The contract expires on Aug. 9 and NTDTV is -obligated to apply to renew the lease three months prior to the contract’s expiration.
CHT refused to renew the contract on the grounds that it will start using a new satellite, ST-2, which it said does not have enough bandwidth to provide quality service because the new satellite will have fewer transponders.
NTDTV has said the decision was made to please Beijing because CHT is expanding its market in China.
CHT on Wednesday again said that, the telecoms company decided not to renew the contract with NTDTV as a result of the decreased bandwidth. It denied the decision was politically motivated.