Having popular Next Media in Tsai’s back pocket would only make things worse. Given Tsai’s connections to Beijing’s communist rulers, it would ramp up legitimate fears that the mainland is, in the words of a January New York Times piece, “slowly engulfing the Republic of China, or democratic Taiwan — indirectly, through ever-deepening economic integration and purchases of the republic’s free and vibrant media by Taiwanese businessmen with large financial stakes in China, who want to see unification happen soon.”
Taiwan’s people should have some say in all this, and most of them do not want unification. More on that later.
Free Taiwan, the Republic of China, has long been a friend to the United States. Its resolute anti-communist stance has stood in sharp contrast to its mainland counterpart. Its friendly relations with others in the region, including U.S. allies Japan and South Korea, do as well. The risk is that Tsai would use his media monopoly to destroy press freedom in Taiwan as a means to force reunification. Tsai is no freedom-loving democrat: He has denied the truth about the brutal 1989 crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in Tienanmen Square. According to Tsai, who would own half of Taiwan’s media if the Next Media deal goes through:
While the crackdown outraged most in Taiwan, Tsai said he was struck by footage of a lone protester standing in front of a People’s Liberation Army tank. The fact that the man wasn’t killed, he said, showed that reports of a massacre were not true: “I realized that not that many people could really have died.”
China’s People’s Liberation Army murdered hundreds of protesters to bring the demonstrations to a bloody end. The Chinese communist government censors discussion about that massacre to the present. Tsai, from his own remarks, may twist his media empire to do the same thing, across Taiwan.
Furthermore, while Tsai supports reunification with the PRC and says that it is “inevitable,” 90% of his potential customers disagree with him and want Taiwan to remain independent. But a censorious, biased media empire that refuses to report truth can change minds.
The bottom line is that freedom of the press in Taiwan, a democratic friend of the United States, is at stake. Taiwan’s freedom from communist rule is also at stake. Our own leadership should speak out, but our indebtedness to Beijing and our own newly minted Secretary of State John Kerry’s old habit of using Chinese propaganda against American interests — regurgitating such propaganda during the Vietnam War is what he built his political career on — may muzzle America’s voice.
Taiwan’s youth have been shaken from apathy to take to the streets to oppose Tsai’s establishment of a near media monopoly. They deserve some backing from the nation that still calls itself the land of the free.