Unification At Center of Taiwan Media Fight

As more than 800,000 people gathered near Taipei 101 to watch the New Year’s Eve fireworks, a small group of university students called the AntiMedia Monster Youth Alliance (YAMM) protested purchases of Taiwan’s media by a businessman with economic ties to mainland China. From Taiwan’s China Post:

The YAMM launched the event to stay overnight at the Liberty Square at Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall to represent their appeals against media monopolization. Around 4,000 people expressed their desires to participate this event on the YAMM’s Facebook page.

Want Want’s purchases of China Network Systems (CNS) and Next Media have triggered a heated debate. Many DPP members, university professors and students argued the acquisition could lead to media monopolization, thereby endangering press freedom.

According to Wang, Su said that if President Ma had solved the issue, these students would not have had to stay overnight in the cold weather. A nation’s leader should be able to stop a consortium from developing a media monopoly, Su said.

Didi Kirsten Tatlow of The New York Times’ Rendezvous blog has more on the student movement and Tsai Eng Meng, one of Taiwan’s richest men and the founder of Want Want:

The students, and their supporters in larger society, accuse the Tsais of turning their media into “personal loudhailers” pushing China’s interests in Taiwan and forcing journalists to write articles that contravene principles of fairness and free speech.

So the prospect that a group of investors including the Want Want China Times will buy Taiwan’s Next Media group, which contains the biggest-selling Taiwan newspaper, Apple Daily, owned by the Hong Kong media owner Jimmy Lai, who has long been critical of the Communist Party-run mainland, is really alarming some. The deal, which is being scrutinized by Taiwan regulators, may go through as early as the end of February, according to Apple Daily sources. Critics warn it would give Mr. Tsai and his group a nearly 50 percent monopoly of Taiwan media.

Mr. Tsai has made no bones of his belief that democratic Taiwan needs to unify with authoritarian China.

“Whether you like it or not, unification is going to happen sooner or later,” he predicted in an interview last year with The Washington Post, arguing unification will only be good for Taiwan. Mr. Tsai also appeared to deny the occurrence or severity of the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre in Beijing.

Separately, The South China Morning Post reports that Taiwanese president Ma Ying-jeou referred to new Chinese leader Xi Jinping directly in his New Year’s address on Tuesday:

“I also hope to co-operate with the new leader of mainland China, Mr Xi Jinping, in continuing to promote peaceful development across the Taiwan Strait on the basis of the ‘1992 Consensus’,” Ma said, referring to the agreement by which each side acknowledged the existence of “one China” while maintaining their own interpretation of what that means.

Ma told the holiday gathering at the presidential office that he would focus on loosening restrictions on mainland investors, students and travellers, as well as establishing administrative offices to serve citizens in each others’ territories. He would also seek to review the Taiwanese law governing the rights of people on both sides of the strait.

Lin Baohua, the Taipei-based political commentator also known as Ling Feng, said it was interesting that Ma chose to directly address Xi, who ascended to the top party post in November and will become president in March.

“It’s rare for a Taiwanese president to address a mainland leader as ‘mister’ with his full name in a public occasion,” Lin said. “Ma’s predecessors were accustomed to using the term ‘Beijing authorities’ or ‘Beijing leadership.’