Hassled in China, American Journalists Are Invited to Try Taiwan. Why Would They Go?

Hassled in China, American Journalists Are Invited to Try Taiwan. Why Would They Go?
Photo Credit: AP / TPG Images

What you need to know

Taiwan's foreign minister said the five American journalists expelled from China are welcome to station in Taiwan.

TAIPEI - Taiwan’s invitation to American journalists harassed by China to locate here instead would free them from government pressure but distance them from Asia’s hub for international news.

Foreign minister Joseph Wu tweeted the invitation Saturday. He mentioned three media organizations whose reporters had been thrown out of China, apparently in response to U.S. curbs against journalists working for state-run Chinese media in the United States.

“He said as that as New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Washington Post journalists face intensifying hostility in China, I would like to welcome you to be stationed in Taiwan, a country that’s a beacon of freedom and democracy,” ministry spokeswoman Joanne Ou said, referring to Wu’s tweet.

Chinese authorities last week expelled several Times, Journal and Post reporters. The authorities also ordered Time magazine and the independent U.S.-funded Voice of America to provide detailed information about their work in China.

China and Taiwan have struggled to get along since the 1940s. Each side is self-ruled, but China claims sovereignty over Taiwan despite protestations on the island. Taiwan democratized in the 1980s, a source of pride among officials comparing themselves to the communist leadership of China.

It’s unclear whether anyone will take up the Taiwan foreign minister’s offer.

Those who are based in Taiwan, an ethnically Chinese society that’s 160 kilometers from China, would be free of pressure from the government.

Unlike in China, in Taiwan foreign reporters are legally free to interview scholars, ordinary people, and government officials without filing applications.

Taiwan police seldom interrupt a journalist’s fieldwork, again unlike in China, and the foreign ministry does not expel reporters over disagreements about their news coverage. China threw out three Wall Street Journal reporters in February because of the news organization’s headline calling China a “sick man of Asia” due to its COVID-19 outbreak.

Those protections, typical of a democracy, however, come at the expense of distance from China, the epicenter for Asia news closely followed by American audiences. China was the source of COVID-19 in December. Over the past two years, it has captured attention for its role in the Sino-U.S. trade dispute.

Americans, including those based in Taiwan, need visas every time they visit China unless transiting for three to six days in some of the larger cities. If discovered gathering news there without Chinese government permission, they could be expelled, and any China-based colleagues harassed.

“It don’t think it’s easy for journalists to make their story if they are not on the ground in Beijing or Shanghai, but if Taipei can be an alternative choice when there’s a situation or scenario, that would be a good thing,” said Alexander Huang, strategic studies professor at Tamkang University in Taiwan. 

The News Lens has been authorized to publish this article from Voice of America.

TNL Editor: Daphne K. Lee (@thenewslensintl)

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