TAIPEI Jan 12 Taiwan's ruling party has blocked
an anti-media monopoly bill that could have derailed a deal to
put nearly half of the island's print and television operations
in the hands of a group of pro-China businessmen.
Next Media Ltd, owned by Hong Kong media mogul
Jimmy Lai, signed a deal in November with five Taiwan tycoons to
sell its Taiwan print and TV assets for T$17.5 billion ($601
million), sparking fears the agreement with pro-China forces
could spell trouble for press freedom on the island.
In an about-turn on Friday, the ruling Nationalist Party
(KMT) rejected the anti-monopoly media law proposed by Taiwan's
major opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), a move that
is expected to swell numbers at a rally planned for Sunday
against China-friendly President Ma Ying-jeou.
"We ask the government to stop treating people like fools
and losing its own credibility," Chsiaoyi Chen, president of
Association of Taiwan Journalists, said in a statement.
Scores of demonstrations have erupted with protesters
voicing concern over the proposed Next Media deal on fears of
growing Chinese influence in Taiwan's media at a time when
cross-strait ties are at their warmest in more than six decades.
China has claimed sovereignty over Taiwan since 1949, when
Mao Zedong's forces won the Chinese civil war and Chiang
Kai-shek's KMT fled to the island. Beijing has vowed to bring
Taiwan under its rule eventually, and by force if necessary.
The "Fury Mass Rally" organised for this weekend by the DPP
would be the first major protest against Taiwan's leader since
he was re-elected last year, with anti-government demonstrators
also using it to call on the government to reject the sale of
Next Media's Taiwan assets.
"People will be even more furious now," said Yeh Yijin, a
legislator at the pro-independent DPP. "Again and again, we feel
the Chinese interference (in Taiwan media). We are very
The proposed anti-media monopoly amendment took a surprising
turn after the broadcasting regulatory authority called a rare
news conference late on Thursday to express its disapproval.
The regulatory authority has said it will unveil a draft act
regulating cross-media ownership in March, according to local
The print part of the deal still needs approval from the
Free Trade Commission.
Among the Taiwan buyers are Want Want China Times Group
President Tsai Shao-Chung, son of Want Want China Holdings Ltd
chairman Tsai Eng-meng, who has close ties with China.
Tsai's family already owns two TV stations, three newspapers
and nearly one-third of cable network in Taiwan.
Tsai owns one of the largest food companies in China and was
named as Taiwan's richest man in 2012 by Forbes magazine. His
office declined to comment when contacted by Reuters.
The DPP said more than 100,000 people were expected to take
part in the rally on Sunday.
Shares of Hong Kong-listed Next Media dropped 5 percent on
Friday, lagging a 0.4 percent loss in the benchmark Hang Seng
(Reporting By Yimou Lee in HONG KONG and Faith Hung in TAIPEI;
Editing by Nick Macfie)