Taiwan to Regulate China’s State-Affiliated Publications After Children’s Book Controversy

Taiwan to Regulate China’s State-Affiliated Publications After Children’s Book Controversy
Photo Credit: CNA

What you need to know

Taiwan’s government plans to amend legislation to make it clear that companies must apply for approval before publishing books associated with the Chinese Communist Party and People’s Liberation Army.

Taiwan’s government plans to regulate China’s state-affiliated publications by requiring local publishers to seek approval if they wish to bring these publications into Taiwan.

Culture Minister Lee Yung-te told the press today the ministry is amending legislation to make it clear that companies must apply for approval before publishing books associated with the Chinese Communist Party and People’s Liberation Army.

The new rule will not apply to companies publishing books that were originally published by private organizations and groups in China, he added.

In response to censorship concerns, Lee said he will not call it censorship because “what Chinese Communist Party publishes are propaganda materials, not books.”

“If a country, faced with the invasion of an unfriendly country, does not build fortifications to defend itself, I doubt what its government is doing,” the minister said.

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Photo Credit: CNA
Culture Minister Lee Yung-te

A debate over the necessity of enforcing such a regulation followed the ban in early December of a children’s book that is said to glorify China’s response to the spread of Covid-19.

The picture book Waiting for Dad to Come Home, originally published in China, was barred from distribution after it was revealed that its publisher failed to apply to the Ministry of Culture for approval.

Current regulations in the Act Governing Relations between the People of the Taiwan Area and the Mainland Area require that Taiwanese publishers apply for a permit to re-publish books first published in China. They have to include an authorization letter from the Chinese publisher.

The law, written in the early 1990s, is now difficult to implement and enforce, making it necessary to amend it, Lee said.

But well before the Ministry of Culture notified the publisher of the book, Chinese Creation Publishing Corporation, to recall the publication, city governments of Taipei, Taichung, and Tainan had announced the removal of all the copies from public libraries due to the controversial content in the book.

In Waiting for Dad to Come Home, a Chinese boy in Wuhan, whose father, a doctor, decides to stay at a hospital treating Covid-19 patients during the Lunar New Year holidays, learns to support his father’s contribution to his country’s fight against the virus.

In a statement on November 23, DPP’s Taipei City Councilor Chen E-jun said the Chinese government is using the book to “rewrite history, bury the truth about the global health crisis, and shirk responsibility for the pandemic.”

Words like “Go China” and “Go Wuhan” and illustrations of Chinese military planes are present in the book, Chen said in a press conference. Many parents have expressed concerns to her about it.

DPP’s legislator Chen Ting-fei criticized the book, saying she doesn’t know what the book can mean to children other than “beautifying China’s response to the spread of Covid-19 pandemic.”

Chen pointed out that one of the two Chinese publishers who authorized Chinese Creation Publishing Corporation to publish the book in Taiwan is clearly affiliated with the Chinese government.

The Changjiang Children’s Publishing Group is a “strategic partner” of China’s “red reading initiative,” whose goal is to “execute the socialism with Chinese characteristics and the spirit of the 19th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party during the new era of Xi Jinping,” according to its official website.

“Taiwan is a democratic country where freedom of speech and publication is protected,” Chen said. “We do not have censorship, but there are still regulations for Chinese publications imported into Taiwan.”

While calling on local publishers to follow the rules to publish Chinese books in Taiwan, Chen demanded the government to look into the case and investigate if other Chinese publishers involved in the red reading initiative are infiltrating Taiwan.

In response, Taiwan Affairs Office, China’s Taiwan policy agency, said, “Some people with bad intentions are making an issue out of a book about love and courage.”

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Photo Credit: CNA
Taiwan Affairs Office spokeswoman Zhu Fenglian

In December, China’s state-owned People’s Daily lashed out at Taiwan’s decision to remove the Waiting for Dad to Come Home from public libraries, saying the book can inspire children to feel that “the two sides of the Taiwan Strait belong to one family.”

“To [Taiwanese independence advocates,] it’s only wrong to say the mainland is great and praising its response to Covid-19 is an attempt of unification,” the editorial said. “Leaving radical remarks, they’re going off to the deep end.”

Taiwanese newspaper China Times, echoing the People’s Daily, condemned the ban and accused the governing DPP of using White Terror tactics to suppress dissents.

The newspaper quoted KMT’s New Taipei city councilor Yeh Yuan-chih, who said the DPP called the KMT to loosen controls on freedom of speech during the martial law period, but now has closed a news channel and banned a children’s book that opposes its ideology.

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TNL Editor: Nicholas Haggerty (@thenewslensintl)

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