DPA / Taipei
Tens of thousands of protesters braved heavy rain in Taiwan yesterday for a rally opposing pro-China media outlets and Chinese influence on Taiwan’s democracy.
The rally against so-called “red media” was organised by Huang Kuo-chang, a lawmaker from the left-wing New Power Party (NPP), and the bodybuilder and YouTube celebrity Holger Chen, who is known in Taiwan as the “gym owner.”
Chen told reporters that the rally aimed to “oppose China’s totalitarianism and the grave infiltration of Chinese influence in business and media and all aspects of our society.” He singled out the media’s lack of coverage of the Hong Kong protests this month.
President Tsai Ing-wen, responding to the protests in a comment on her Facebook page, vowed to use administrative and legislative measures to “root fake information out of Taiwan society.” Tsai was nominated last week to run for a second four-year term in office by the governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).
Criticism for pro-China coverage has focused on the Want Want China Times group of newspapers and television stations, which was purchased in late 2008 by Tsai Eng-meng, a tycoon whose wealth has come mostly come from sales of rice cakes and beverages in China.
Chen said the media group’s CTi News satellite cable news channel “did not say a word” about the huge marches in Hong Kong earlier this month against a proposed law that would permit extradition to China. Chen said that while friends in the media group had privately offered explanations for the lack of coverage, “what they should do is report fairly about Hong Kong’s opposition to extradition to China and not distort June Fourth,” referring to the 30th anniversary of the Tiananmen massacre in Beijing.
Huang of the NPP said that besides threatening Taiwan militarily, China “is now trying to buy Taiwan by giving ‘red media’ advertising and subsidies so that they can manufacture fake information and erode our democracy.” “We want the National Communications Commission to enforce existing laws and for the legislature to enact new laws to protect our democracy and national security from erosion by fake news,” the NPP legislator said. The NPP recently submitted a series of draft bills aimed at imposing restrictions on accepting advertising or subsidies from Chinese businesses or other entities and harsher fines for publication of “fake information.”
The NPP’s chairman, Chiu Hsien-chih, demanded that CTi have its license revoked for failing to abide by conditions set by the National Communications Commission, including the appointment of an independent news quality monitor.
“The NCC should enforce the law and kick CTi out of Taiwan,” Chiu told participants. The regulatory agency has imposed a fine of $16,000 on CTi instead of revoking the licence. Lo Wen-jia, secretary general of the governing DPP, noted that “many other advanced democratic countries are facing similar crises” of infiltration by authoritarian regimes and the dissemination of fake information.
The Taiwanese people have put up with daily and continuous brainwashing from pro-China media, he said. “I think it’s time to stand up,” said Lo, who added that “the best way to defend democracy is to strengthen our democratic system and more rigorously follow democratic procedures and not to use dictatorial means to oppose dictatorship.”
Organisers did not offer an estimate for the crowd size but it appeared to be one of the largest held on Taipei’s Ketagalan Boulevard.
“Unlike KMT rallies, we did not provide meals or buses or even chairs, but everyone stood and stayed until the end despite the winds and pouring rain,” Chen, the “Gym Owner,” said at the end of the rally, referring to the pro-China KMT party.
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