The Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) — no stranger to controversy, following accusations that it was wasting public funds and running contentious advertisements — has become embroiled in yet another spat, this time over its latest online policy promotion.
On March 26, the council launched a promotion of its past cross-strait policies on its official Facebook page, asking the question: “Since May 20, 2008, cross-strait policies have taken a turn for the better, and the government’s efforts to establish a systemic interaction has resolved many cross-strait problems. How well informed are you of the results of the government’s China policies and the results of cross-strait interaction in the past four years? Which policy do you support the most?”
Participants were eligible for a raffle, which had as top prizes two external 640GB hard drives and four NT$500 (US$16) gift vouchers from the Shinkong Mitsukoshi department store, the council said, adding that the gifts were “courtesy of sponsoring companies.”
However, some questioned the manner in which the promotion had been set up, because the Facebook event page asked netizens to “like” the page before allowing them to join the competition.
In response, some council officials said off the record that they “did not know” if all participants actually agreed with the China policies of President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration.
The MAC said the promotion is interactive and that similar promotions have been held in the past, but critics called it a form of advertising that “unconditionally” supports the Ma administration’s China policies.
Critics of the council, notably from the opposition parties, have said the Cabinet-level body — responsible for charting the government’s policy toward China — has gradually become a propaganda arm over the past four years.
Lawmakers from the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) said that while the council’s advertising budget stood at only NT$15 million (US$508,000) in 2009, it had increased more than seven-fold to NT$106 million this year.
Critics said the MAC’s past advertising campaigns have been controversial, citing a 2010 campaign promoting the cross-strait Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA).
In one clip, it said that “Taiwan could become a second North Korea” if it did not sign the ECFA.
Another clip, shot last year and parodying the name Seriogan — a pill made from creosote during the second Sino-Japanese War as a cure for diarrhea — said the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) administration’s China policies would “strengthen the body,” implying that government policies would safeguard benefits of core value to Taiwanese.
Translated by Jake Chung, staff writer