US Lawmakers Criticize White House Over Allegations It Cut Taiwan Video Over Map at Democracy Summit

By Rita Li
Rita Li
Rita Li
Rita Li is a reporter with The Epoch Times, focusing on China-related topics. She began writing for the Chinese-language edition in 2018.
December 14, 2021 Updated: December 14, 2021

U.S. lawmakers have expressed concern after the White House allegedly asked to shut off the video feed of a Taiwanese minister during last week’s Summit for Democracy.

The White House has denied the claims.

Concerns arose from a color-coded map that showed Taiwan in a different color to China, as presented by Taiwanese Digital Minister Audrey Tang during a panel discussion on Dec. 10, Reuters reported, citing sources close to the matter.

The image differentiating Taiwan and China—that could have been viewed as being at odds with Washington’s “one-China” policy—allegedly flustered White House officials.

After a minute the video vision of the presentation was cut and only audio was heard. An onscreen disclaimer later declared opinions expressed by individuals do not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. government.

The incident drew fire from several U.S. Republican politicians.

“Censoring Taiwan and tiptoeing around the Chinese Communist Party at our own democracy summit is just beyond the pale,” said Rep. Ashley Hinson (R-Iowa) in a Dec. 13 Twitter post.

Rep. Claudia Tenney (R-N.Y.) called it a “reprehensible” decision that requires “an immediate public apology.”

“Tyrants around the world must know the US stands for freedom, self-expression, and democracy,” she said on Twitter.

“This is unacceptable,” Rep. Pat Fallon (R-Texas) posted on the same day. “What will it take for this Administration to stop bending over backward to appease China?”

Rep. Lisa McClain (R-Mich.) and Rep. Debbie Lesko (R-Ariz.) both weighed in on the matter.

“Has the Biden White House completely forgotten that the U.S. and Taiwan are allies?” McClain wrote on Twitter. “Censoring a Taiwanese minister to appease the #CCP is a dangerous step to take.”

“How ironic,” said Lesko via Twitter. “A minister from Taiwan was censored by the Biden Administration so as not to offend China at the ‘Summit of Democracy’.”

Some said the move to cut the video feed was an over-reaction with a  source telling Reuters that the White House National Security Council (NSC) angrily contacted the State Department, concerned that the video appeared to show Taiwan as a distinct country.

Despite China’s claims over Taiwan, the island has its own democratically-elected government, military, and constitution.

The map, produced by a third party, was to distinguish Taiwan’s civic freedoms. The data used to create it was from CIVICUS Monitor, a research tool that provides close to real-time data and ranks the world by openness on civil rights.

The map filled the territory of Taiwan with green, indicating an “open” civil society, in contrast to mainland China and Hong Kong, which were classified as “closed” and colored red, as were Laos, Vietnam, and North Korea.

Tang said during the panel discussion that Taiwan has been rated as “completely open” for three consecutive years.

“We are the only Asian country with that distinction and the solo Asian green light,” Tang said.

A spokesman at the White House NSC has denied the allegation.

“At no time did the White House direct that Minister Tang’s video feed be cut,” the spokesman told Reuters in an email.

The State Department said “confusion” over screen-sharing resulted in Tang’s video feed being dropped, calling it “an honest mistake.”

“We valued Minister Tang’s participation, which showcased Taiwan’s world-class expertise on issues of transparent governance, human rights, and countering disinformation,” a spokesperson said.

Taiwan’s foreign ministry said “technical problems” caused the video not to be seen and later said Tang’s presentation had been provided in advance and not shown at the last minute.

“Taiwan and the United States have fully communicated on this technical issue, and the two sides have a solid mutual trust and a solid and friendly relationship,” the ministry said.

Washington has long held a “one-China policy,” which asserts that there is only one sovereign state with the name “China,” but avoids taking a position as to whether Taiwan is part of China. Meanwhile, it maintains an unofficial relationship with Taiwan, including continued arms sales to support its self-defense.

According to the participation list released on Nov. 23 by the State Department, China was not among the invitees to the U.S.-led summit, along with Burma (also known as Myanmar), Russia, and Vietnam.

A spokesperson for the State Department told The Epoch Times in a previous email that Taiwan’s inclusion at the summit is consistent with the United States’ “one-China” policy.

U.S. President Joe Biden looks at a video screen displaying the participants in the Summit for Democracy as he delivers opening remarks in the South Court Auditorium in Washington on Dec. 9, 2021. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

The video issue comes amid a highly sensitive time for Sino-U.S. relations.

In October, President Joe Biden said that the United States was committed to defending Taiwan if the island was attacked by China—a departure from a long-held U.S. position of “strategic ambiguity.”

Reuters contributed to this report.

Rita Li
Rita Li is a reporter with The Epoch Times, focusing on China-related topics. She began writing for the Chinese-language edition in 2018.