During a speech on Sunday at the Straits Forum in Xiamen, China, and in an opinion piece published in the pro-Beijing China Times on Tuesday, media pundit Joyce Huang (黃智賢) unequivocally called for Taiwan to be unified with China.
She praised Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) for his willingness to apply the “one country, two systems” model — which is foundering in Hong Kong — to Taiwan, saying it demonstrates his “respect” for and “goodwill” toward the nation.
She also wrote of how the continued cross-strait “status quo” would only lead to Taiwan’s increased marginalization, and how unification needs to be achieved for the sake of the next generation.
Huang’s sentiments undoubtedly found support from some quarters in Taiwan, but were met with anger from others. Several online commentators called for the government to rescind her citizenship.
Others asked her brother, Tainan Mayor Huang Wei-che (黃偉哲), of the Democratic Progressive Party, what he thought of her comments. He said that they have opposing viewpoints and that Taiwan is a democratic nation that observes freedom of expression.
Therein lies the tension between protecting freedom of expression and safeguarding the nation from interference from hostile foreign powers.
On May 10, China held a forum in Beijing for members of the media in Taiwan and China. The forum was organized by Taiwan’s Want Want China Times Group and China’s Beijing Daily Group. Want Want owns the China Times, while the Beijing Daily is the official newspaper of the Chinese Communist Party’s Beijing Municipal Committee.
Present were Want Want China Times Group president Tsai Shao-chung (蔡紹中) and chairman Tsai Eng-meng (蔡衍明), Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference Chairman Wang Yang (汪洋), China’s Taiwan Affairs Office Minister Liu Jieyi (劉結一), and former Taichung mayor and Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) vice chairman Jason Hu (胡志強).
The stated purpose of the forum was “to promote exchanges and cultural activity between the Chinese and Taiwanese media, to facilitate cooperation between members, and to jointly work toward the realization of the Great Renaissance of the Chinese nation and the creation of a conducive public discourse to this end.”
Wang said that the realization of “peaceful unification and ‘one country, two systems’ [on Taiwan] relied on the efforts of the media.”
Liu talked of how time and power were on the side of China, and called on the Taiwanese media to work hard to promote the ideas of unification and the “renaissance of the Chinese nation” among Taiwanese, saying that “history will remember you.”
The forum was openly calling on the pro-China media in Taiwan to make Taiwanese more amenable to unification, specifically under a “one country, two systems” model, and to persuade them that this is part of their destiny.
Huang’s speech and article can be seen as an extension of this effort.
The Chinese authorities are well aware of how hard it is to sell unification and the “one country, two systems” model to the majority of Taiwanese.
This media push is another facet of Beijing’s “united front” efforts.
The forum was not a backroom, closed door affair, but an open one with a number of Taiwanese media representatives attending. Beijing wanted it to be reported in Taiwan and it wanted Taiwanese to see it. The medium was part of the message.
On Sunday, there will be a march in Taipei calling for the government to take action to rein in the pro-China media. Nobody wants a return to Martial Law-era restrictions on the fourth estate, but it is of paramount importance that the public is made aware of what is happening.
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