China paid Taiwan media for positive coverage: Reuters

China's Taiwan Affairs Office signed contracts with Taiwanese media groups

Taiwan Affairs Office chief Liu Jieyi (left).

Taiwan Affairs Office chief Liu Jieyi (left). (CNA photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – Following a report by the Financial Times accusing China of direct interference in the Taiwanese media, the Reuters news agency said Friday (Aug.9) that the Chinese government has paid five media groups on the island to publish positive articles about the country.

Reuters said the former and current staff members who provided the information had asked it not to name the companies involved.

Articles on the website of a prominent newspaper seemed like straightforward news about Chinese incentives for Taiwanese businesspeople, but they were actually paid for by Beijing, Reuters said.

The news agency said it interviewed 10 reporters and newsroom managers and saw internal documents, including contracts signed by the Taiwan Affairs Office (TAO), the Chinese government department in charge of relations with the island.

Two feature stories about the business incentives earned the Taiwanese publications 30,000 yuan (US$4,250), according to Reuters.

The TAO had set up special companies to serve as go-betweens with the Taiwanese media, while local Chinese governments have reportedly also paid for positive reporting for several years.

The Taiwanese government has said the publications could face a fine of up to NT$500,000 (US$15,900) for violating rules about Chinese advertisements, Reuters reported.

In June, tens of thousands of Taiwanese took part in a protest against the pro-Chinese propaganda of the "red media." In addition, the Financial Times has became entangled in a legal conflict with Want Want China Times Group after it alleged that Chinese government officials make direct phone calls to the group’s publications to influence their reporting about China, a charge the group vehemently denies.