Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen has cited a recent Reuters report, which exposed Beijing’s bid to pay Taiwanese media outlets for positive coverage of the mainland and the Kuomintang party’s presidential candidate, as the latest proof of Beijing’s infiltration.
Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of a visit to a temple in Kaohsiung last weekend, Tsai admitted that Beijing’s infiltration was “ubiquitous” despite her government’s all-out efforts to stop it.
The Reuters report alleged that several Chinese government agencies, led by the Taiwan Affairs Office, had paid and bribed as many as five Taiwanese media companies, including print and TV networks, to get favorable coverage.
The report also linked two feature articles – about the mainland’s new business promotion and retention scheme for Taiwanese that appeared in Taiwanese papers – to Beijing’s bribery.
The articles, for which the TAO reportedly paid 30,000 yuan (US$4,248), lauded the program, saying China “treated Taiwanese businessmen like its own people.”
Tsai said prosecutors would launch an investigation into the allegations about the deals between the TAO and media firms on the island, which could have contravened the law.
Suspicions of Chinese influence in local media were also corroborated by a separate report by the Financial Times in July, which revealed that the Want Want China Times Group received funding and instructions from the TAO.
The owner of the media conglomerate runs dozens of food processing factories across China and is seen by many as dictating to newspapers and TV channels in the group to adjust their editorial stance to curry favor with Beijing.
Also, the ruling Democratic Progressive Party warned that Beijing’s “red infiltration” of the self-governed island included comprehensive efforts to “enter the island, enter homes, enter minds and enter hearts” through the internet and the media, among other avenues.
A political scientist at the National Taiwan Normal University told the island’s Central News Agency and Liberty Times that such infiltration would not abate even if the Beijing-friendly Kuomintang party returns to power in January’s presidential election.
Professor Fan Shih-ping said Beijing would still execute its covert missions to gain more control of the island’s media via economic means or though Taiwanese businessmen who have to rely on the Chinese market, as it was imperative for them to instill Beijing’s ideology to pave way for the reunification of the renegade island and that was far more important than merely ensuring an election victory for the KMT.