Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Taipei City Councilor Wang Hung-wei (王鴻薇) on May 3 attended a regular political commentary program on cross-strait affairs hosted and aired by China’s state broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV). Speaking to other guests from an indoor soundstage in Taipei, Wang referred to President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) as “the Taiwan leader” and said that Taiwan is merely a pawn for the US government.
The comments drew much public attention in Taiwan, but they were not a mere “slip of the tongue,” as there are many hidden issues in Taiwan, including loopholes and ambiguity in laws and regulations, the self-degradation of public officials, and the effortlessness with which Chinese state media run by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) can deploy its local lackeys in Taiwan.
Wang enjoys freedom of expression in Taiwan, so her self-degrading remark is not a crime. However, she was speaking on a program hosted by a state broadcaster run by a country that treats Taiwan as an enemy.
In this light, the matter involves great legal ambiguity.
First, the media firm claims to have obtained a license in Taiwan, so there is no suspicion that it has contravened the law by setting up a soundstage in Taiwan.
Article 33-1 of the Act Governing Relations Between the People of the Taiwan Area and the Mainland Area (臺灣地區與大陸地區人民關係條例) stipulates: “Unless permitted by each competent authorities concerned, no individual, juristic person, organization, or other institution of the Taiwan Area may engage in any of the following activities,” one of which is “cooperative activity involving political nature with any individual, juristic person, organization, or other institution of the Mainland Area.”
Even if Wang’s remarks represent her personal belief, using the Chinese rather than the Taiwanese transliteration for “Trump” and referring to Tsai as the “Taiwan leader,” which are more palatable to China, raise the question of whether there is not also some “cooperative activity of a political nature.”
It also begs the questions of whether Wang was paid to attend and, if she was, who paid her. Any comment in this highly political program must have complied with the CCP’s opinion. Was there really no cooperation going on?
Most of the show’s guests are common people or academics — public officials rarely participate, but it has now featured a Taiwanese public official who is also the KMT’s Cultural and Communications Committee deputy director-general. What will the future look like if public officials are denigrated by China even before they leave Taiwan?
The National Communications Commission and the Mainland Affairs Council, which are responsible for approving the operations of Chinese media firms in Taiwan, should pay more attention to whether this kind of highly political program functioning as a tool for China’s “united front” strategy should be allowed to set up or use a soundstage in Taipei, and what its purposes are.
Should fellow travelers in Taiwan be allowed to facilitate the activities of such media outlets? If government agencies continue to turn a blind eye to such programs and their supporters, they would never be able to regulate what Taiwanese in China do and say.
This incident is by no means unique, and it deserves the government’s deliberation and examination. Cross-strait exchanges are not a bad thing, but when they go too far, they cannot be brushed over by simply referring to them as “cross-strait exchanges.”
Michael Lin is a postgraduate student at National Taiwan University’s Graduate Institute of National Development.
Translated by Chang Ho-ming
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