Reporter Who Hid Beijing Ties When Questioned by Trump Could Be Fined $16,000 in Taiwan

April 17, 2020 Updated: April 17, 2020

TAIPEI, Taiwan—A Taiwanese reporter working for Chinese state-run media could face a heavy fine in his native hometown.

The reporter, named Chang Ching-yi, was much talked about on Taiwanese social media after attending an April 9 press briefing at the White House on the pandemic.

He was called on to ask a question. President Donald Trump asked where he was from, a question seemingly to find out which media Chang worked at.

Chang responded to the question by saying he was from Taiwan, where he was born. However, his response covered up the fact that he works for Dragon Television, a broadcaster owned by China’s state-run Shanghai Media Group.

Chang was the second person to be less than forthright about his affiliation with Beijing. Three days earlier, on April 6, a reporter named Wang Youyou at the Hong Kong-based Phoenix TV denied she was working for the Chinese regime when asked by Trump. Phoenix TV in fact has ties to top officials in the Chinese Communist Party’s opposition faction.

On April 16, Chiu Chui-cheng, spokesperson of Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council, a government agency that deals with cross-strait affairs, said that Chang, a Taiwanese citizen, violated a local law with his employment, according to Taiwan’s government-run Central News Agency (CNA).

Chang violated Article 33 of the Act Governing Relations Between People of Taiwan Area and Mainland Area according to Chiu. Under the law, people are prohibited from holding any positions in China’s political parties, military, or institutions of any political nature. Any violators could be fined from $100,000 to $500,000 New Taiwan Dollars (about $3,320 to $16,620).

According to Chinese search engine Baidu, Chang was born in Taiwan in 1979, and graduated with bachelor’s degrees in journalism and Arab studies at the National Chengchi University. He received his master’s degree in international relations at New York University.

Chang became a Washington-based reporter with Phoenix TV in 2010 and joined Dragon TV in July 2014.

Chang has about 32,300 followers on his official Weibo account. And on March 20, he took a jab at Trump when he posted two photos of Trump’s press conference notes showing what appeared to be his changing the term “Corona” virus to “Chinese” virus.

“Any political figures who shift blame to other countries cast a chill over people,” Chang wrote in the Weibo post.

On March 17, Trump first used the term “Chinese virus” in his tweet. He later explained that he used this wording to challenge China’s false information. A Chinese diplomat posted a tweet suggesting that the U.S. military passed the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, commonly known as the novel coronavirus, to China.

The U.S. government has long warned about the Shanghai Media Group’s close ties with Chinese authorities.

In October 2005, the Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC) issued a statement, naming Shanghai-based media outlets, including Shanghai Media Group, of working with the city’s propaganda department to improve news screening and censorship in China.

“[These media outlets] offered specific measures to establish and perfect coordinated and effective long-term administrative mechanisms for pre-reporting strict examination and approval, as well as for post-reporting review, monitoring, and examination,” CECC stated, citing state-run media People’s Daily.

Following Chiu’s announcement, some users of Taiwan’s popular bulletin board service, PTT, called for stronger measures against Chang, including revoking his Taiwan’s citizenship.

One user named “nikewang” wrote: “Use [Taiwan’s] anti-infiltration law to investigate him, since the CCP is paying his salary.”

Taiwan passed the anti-infiltration law in December last year to combat Beijing’s efforts to influence the island’s politics and democratic process, through processes such as illicit funding of local politicians and media.

Follow Frank on Twitter: @HwaiDer