From Li Ruihuan to Li Yafei:The Presidential News Boycott 18 Years Ago
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
August 18, 2010
Li Yafei is Deputy Chairman of the Mainland Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait (ARATS). On the 11th of this month, while in Taipei, Li publicly stated that the basis of cross-Strait mutual trust is opposition to Taiwan independence and a defense of the 1992 Consensus.
To the best of our recollection, this is the first time a Mainland official has ever publicly expressed "opposition to Taiwan independence" on Taiwan soil. This can be regarded as a milestone in cross-Strait interaction.
From the perspective of Taiwan independence advocates, Li Yafei's action was tantamount to breaking into their house and spitting in their face. Logically speaking it should have provoked a powerful reaction. But the general public treated Li Yafei's declaration of "opposition to Taiwan independence" in a matter of fact fashion. Even the DPP and Taiwan independence pressure groups acted as if they hadn't heard it. They failed to utter a single protest, and remained dead silent.
Think back 18 years. On October 29, 1992, CCP Politbureau Standing Committee Member Li Ruihuan was in Beijing, addressing visiting members of the Chinese language media. He declared that Mainland China would not sit by and watch Taiwan declare independence. It would resort to any means to prevent it. Even if it meant blood sacrifices. It would fight to the end. It would spare no expense. The next day over a dozen newspapers on Taiwan faithfully reported his remarks. Who knew a few days later then president Lee Teng-hui would personally spearhead an all out newspaper boycott, the first since democracy was instituted on Taiwan.
On November 11, President Lee Teng-hui, Chairman of the Kuomintang, spoke before the Central Standing Committee. He said "After a certain reporter returned, he wrote a terrifying news story that Intimidated our people." The newspaper Lee Teng-hui was referring to was the United Daily News. The president clearly knew that over a dozen different newspapers faithfully reported Li's remarks. But he deliberately singled out the United Daily News. A few days later, Lee Teng-hui met with a number of Taiwan independence pressure groups, and again referred to the United Daily News. He said "I no longer read that newspaper. Do you?" It was then that Lee Teng-hui initiated the "newspaper subscription cancellation movement" or "newspaper boycott."
The president masterminded an all out, overwhelming, take no prisoners newspaper boycott. The DPP and Taiwan independence pressure groups provided the muscle. Political mud flew through the air, accusing the United Daily News of "tilting toward [Mainland] China," of being the "mouthpiece of the CCP," of being the "Taiwan Edition of the People's Daily," of being "Communist fellow travelers." Mass rallies were held everywhere, urging people to cancel their subscriptions. Copies of the United Daily News were piled high then set alight. Movement members attached stickers onto people's mailboxes reading, "Our house does not read the United Daily News." Some stores would not even allow the United Daily News on their racks. Some airlines removed the United Daily News from their inflight reading bins. Some businesses were intimidated into withdrawing their ads from the United Daily News. The sole justification cited for this all out, overwhelming, take no prisoners presidential newspaper boycott was that the United Daily News, like all the other newspapers on Taiwan, truthfully reported Li Ruihuan's "opposition to Taiwan independence" remark.
Lee Teng-hui and Taiwan independence pressure groups intensified their campaign of repression against the media. They set up an "Advertisers Association" and used ad sales to suppress freedom of expression. The President's son-in-law Lai Kuo-chou was made Secretary-General of the Press Council. As we recall that day 18 years later, who could have imagined that "Mr. Democracy" Lee Teng-hui would consign the media on Taiwan to a living hell?
Recall this day 18 years ago. Li Ruihuan spoke of "opposition to Taiwan independence." A newspaper accurately reported Li's remarks. Lee Teng-hui, the DPP, and Taiwan independence pressure groups responded by subjecting the newspaper to a terror campaign. Eighteen years later, Li Yafei is invited to Taipei, the guest of a Taipei-based newspaper. He stood on Taiwan soil. He "broke into the house" and openly declared "opposition to Taiwan independence." Why have the DPP and Taiwan independence pressure groups pretended not to hear? More to the point, why has Lee Teng-hui pretended not to hear? Why are they silent? Is it because they agree with Li Yafei? Or is it that the public on Taiwan no longer agrees with them?
Another fact is equally interesting. The newspaper that invited Li Yafei to Taiwan and provided him with the podium on which he declared "opposition to Taiwan independence," was one of the newspapers that fanned the flames of the newspaper boycott 18 years ago. Never mind that they too published Li's remarks, on the front page. Never mind that 18 years ago they were accused of being "capitalist bandits" and "traitors to Taiwan." Today, 18 years later, these media moguls have the wherewithal to sponsor large scale cross-Strait fora. They are major players in cross-Strait "peaceful development." The 18 year difference truly is ironic. Accused "capitalist bandits" became key figures on both Taiwan and the Mainland. The supermarkets that refused to display copies of the United Daily News on their racks became giant supermarket chains with stores on both Taiwan and the Mainland. The airline which removed the United Daily News from its inflight reading bins became an aggressive advocate of cross-Strait exchanges. The Democratic Progressive Party, Taiwan independence pressure groups, and Lee Teng-hui once went berserk and persecuted the United Daily News, merely for printing Li Ruihuan's remark about "opposition to Taiwan independence." Today Li Yafei throws "opposition to Taiwan independence" in their faces. Yet they listen in silence. That was then. This is now.
Think back 18 years, to the presidential newspaper boycott movement. Lee Teng-hui conspired with Taiwan independence pressure groups. Together they used state power to hijack public opinion. But this was also the reason they eventually reached a dead end. Lee Teng-hui conspired with Taiwan independence pressure groups and the Democratic Progressive Party. They used smears such as "Communist sympathizers" "Communist mouthpieces" to block the free flow of information and restrict diversity of thought. They ripped the nation apart. They froze social dialogue. They traumatized the nation. They enabled Lee Teng-hui successor Chen Shui-bian to impose a Closed Door Policy on Taiwan, bringing the Republic of China economy to the brink of ruin.
Lee Teng-hui was ostensibly runhappy with the United Daily News. In fact the Li Ruihuan news article was merely a convenient pretext. During Lee Teng-hui's 12 year reign, he engaged in black gold corruption and destroyed the ROC Constitution. United Daily News criticisms provoked his hatred and enmity. Who today does not know that the nation's constitution was destroyed by Lee Teng-hui?
United Daily News founder Wang Ti-wu said "A president has a term limit. A newspaper does not." A president can in a fit of apoplexy, launch a newspaper boycott campaign. But history will eventually return to reason. Lee Teng-hui, the DPP, and Taiwan independence pressure groups may burn newspapers. But can they burn history?
2010.08.18 10:26 am