China has pressured media outlets in Taiwan to produce news in line with its political priorities, according to the latest human rights report released by the United States Wednesday (March 11).
The Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, issued annually by the U.S. State Department, analyzed 199 countries and regions in 2019.
The section on Taiwan covers the country's judicial system, government transparency, workers' rights, freedom of expression, citizens' involvement in politics, and cases of discrimination and abuse toward minorities.
Regarding Taiwan's press freedom, the report said that independent media outlets were active in the country and freely expressed their views without restriction from the Taiwanese government.
The only concerns about censorship were efforts made by the Chinese authorities to pressure media organizations in Taiwan, according to the report.
The report said that "senior PRC (People's Republic of China) officials used the fourth Beijing-Taiwan Media Forum to call on Taiwanese media outlets to shape their coverage to promote PRC political priorities."
It cited the case of Wang Yang (汪洋), chairman of China's political advisory body, who told journalists to promote policies such as the so-called "1992 consensus," China's "one country, two systems" and the peaceful unification of Taiwan and China, the report said.
"Wang also invoked the possibility of war with Taiwan if progress is not made toward these goals," the report said, adding that "experts considered Wang's remarks to be the most open and direct case of a PRC official exerting pressure on Taiwan's media organizations to date."
Another example raised was that of the Want Want Group, the owner of several media outlets in Taiwan, including the China Times daily newspaper, and described in the report as having "substantial operations" in China.
According to the report, in July 2019, the group sued a Financial Times journalist "in apparent retaliation for a report she authored exposing coordination between Want Want media outlets in Taiwan and the PRC Taiwan Affairs Office regarding the content of Want Want publications."
The report also said that the Chinese authorities pressured companies to pull advertisements from Taiwanese publications whose coverage was "deemed to be insufficiently consistent" with Chinese policies, although it did not name any of the specific media outlets affected.
In terms of discrimination and abuse toward underprivileged members of society, the report said that foreign spouses in Taiwan have been "reported targets of social discrimination" in their homes and in society.
Non-governmental organizations have also reported inadequate facilities for people with disabilities in terms of transportation and education, especially outside of Taipei, the report said.
The section of the report on workers' rights emphasized the plight faced by migrant workers in Taiwan, as these workers "were most susceptible to forced labor, especially when serving as crew members on Taiwan-flagged fishing vessels."
Some brokers charge high fees that plunge migrant workers into "debt bondage," the report said, and there are no laws to prevent these brokers from simply reopening their businesses under different names after being caught.
Although there are laws against the mistreatment of workers and the Taiwanese authorities seek to enforce them, the penalties are not sufficient to deter violations, the report said.