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Mainland China targets Taiwanese influencers for punishment over ‘fake and negative’ comments

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Beijing has named a handful of Taiwanese influencers to a list of people it plans to target with punitive measures, accusing them of “fabricating fake and negative information” about mainland China’s development and provoking cross-strait tensions.

On Wednesday, Chen Binhua, a spokesman for Beijing’s Taiwan Affairs Office, listed five people, saying that a small number of Taiwanese commentators had “disregarded the facts of the mainland’s development and progress, deliberately fabricating false and negative information about the mainland”, and disseminated these views widely through media platforms.

They include Taiwanese commentator Edward Huang, television host Liu Baojie, and three politicians: Lee Cheng-hao, who is also a host of several television programmes, Wang Yi-chuan, an official with the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), and former army general Yu Pei-chen.
“Their erroneous remarks have hoodwinked some people on the island, provoked cross-strait hostility and antagonism, and hurt the feelings of compatriots on both sides,” Chen said.

“Any acts of fabricating, spreading rumours, disrupting social order or damaging national honour and interests will face legal consequences.”

Beijing is targeting former Taiwanese army general Yu Pei-chen for remarks it says have provoked cross-strait tensions. Photo: SCMP/Handout

Chen did not give examples of what the rumours were. But he was responding to a question from a state media reporter who cited comments by the influencers that portrayed mainland China as economically backward.

Chen said the five people and their family members would be subject to punitive measures, but he did not specify the measures.

Based on previous cases, it could mean they and their family members will be barred from entering mainland China, Hong Kong or Macau.

It could also mean banning organisations they are affiliated with from cooperating with mainland organisations or individuals. Affiliated companies and financial sponsors could be prohibited from profiting from mainland China, among other measures.

In August 2022, measures were also imposed against seven Taiwanese government officials and politicians, including six DPP members. Beijing accused them of being “obstinate separatists” after then US House speaker Nancy Pelosi and a US congressional delegation made trips to the island.

Taiwanese politician Lee Cheng-hao is a former member of the Kuomintang, the island’s main opposition party, but he was dismissed from the party for criticising a former presidential candidate. Photo: SCMP/Handout
Beijing’s announcement comes just days before the inauguration of Taiwanese president-elect William Lai Ching-te, who will be sworn in on May 20.

At Wednesday’s briefing, the state media reporter asked whether Beijing planned to punish the Taiwanese media personalities for “spreading rumours and smearing the mainland”, and triggering “confrontation between netizens on both sides”.

Among the claims cited was a comment by Wang last year following former Taiwanese leader Ma Ying-jeou’s visit to mainland China, which included a trip via high-speed rail.

Wang, who was head of the city of Taichung’s transport bureau, reportedly said that Ma – who had praised the railway’s convenience – was deceived as “the high-speed rail has no backrest”.

Commentator Edward Huang also raised controversy in 2019, when he reportedly said during a television appearance that people on the mainland could not afford pickled vegetables.

Huang is a financial commentator who often appears on major television channels including TVBS, EBC News and SET News.

Liu, a former journalist, hosts the programme Critical Time on EBC News.

Lee is a former member of the island’s main opposition party, the Kuomintang, but he was dismissed from the party for criticising a former presidential candidate. He now hosts a show on SET News.

Wang, director of the DPP’s policy research and coordinating committee, and Yu, a member of the Taoyuan city council, are often featured as television commentators.

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