Taipei, June 23 (CNA) Thousands of protesters took to the streets of Taipei in heavy rain Sunday, calling for the departure from Taiwan of "red media" outlets, which are perceived to be influenced by China.
The main organizers, YouTube celebrity Holger Chen (陳之漢) and New Power Party (NPP) Legislator Huang Kuo-chang (黃國昌), said the protest was not just against the "red media" in Taiwan, but also in opposition to the Chinese Communist Party's (CCP) authoritarian rule in China.
"Red media" refers to outlets through which the CCP spreads disinformation or harmful information to infiltrate and divide Taiwan, with the aim of annexing the country and undermining its free, democratic constitutional order, according to the organizers.
"We are here to tell the CCP that you may be able to buy certain things with money, but not everyone is willing to sell their dignity," said Chen, who has gained fame for his workout tutorials and unpolished comments on current affairs on his YouTube channel, which has more than 600,000 subscribers.
Chen said the fact that so many people had been standing in the heavy rain for hours showed their willingness to defend Taiwan's democracy.
"It also goes to show that it is impossible for the CCP to invade our country, regardless of its methods," he said.
Also addressing the crowd on Ketagalan Boulevard in front of the Presidential Office, Huang said defending and loving Taiwan is "not a patent owned by any individual or political party," as China's missiles will not distinguish between supporters of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and their Kuomintang (KMT) counterparts.
"The same applies to the red media outlets, which accept subsidies from the CCP with one hand and use the other to produce fake news to damage Taiwan's democracy," Huang said. "They are our shared enemies and require our collective resistance."
He apparently was referring to a report in the Chinese-language newspaper Apple Daily in April that said Want Want China Holdings Ltd in China, a subsidiary of the Taiwan-based Want Want Holdings Ltd., had received up to 477 million Chinese yuan (US$71 million) in subsidies from the Chinese government between 2017 and 2018.
Want Want Holdings was founded by tycoon Tsai Eng-meng (蔡衍明), who expanded his food business operations into China in the 1990s, setting up production plants across the country.
He also founded the Want Want China Times Media Group, which owns CTiTV, China Television Company (CTV) and the Chinese-language newspaper China Times, among other major outlets in Taiwan.
Huang said he hoped the protesters' demands would result in concrete action later this year, instead of being used as fodder in the campaigns leading up the 2020 presidential and legislative elections.
The protesters called on the National Communications Commission (NCC) -- the government agency responsible for regulating the telecommunication and broadcasting industries -- to rigorously enforce the existing laws to discipline any media outlets that display questionable conduct.
They also urged lawmakers to expedite legislation to prevent the CCP from using media outlets to divide and spread disinformation in Taiwan.
Promoted as a non-partisan event, the rally attracted politicians mainly from the pan-green camp, including DPP Secretary-General Luo Wen-jia (羅文嘉), DPP Legislator Wang Ting-yu (王定宇), former Premier Yu Shyi-kun (游錫堃), NPP Chairman Chiu Hsien-chih (邱顯智) and NPP Legislator Hsu Yung-ming (徐永明).
The thousands of protesters braving the rain held placards that read "reject red media, defend Taiwan's democracy."
Among them was 27-year-old Chang Chia-yuan (張佳原) of Taipei, who said he was protesting against what he saw as the CCP's united-front tactics and its attempts to assimilate Taiwanese and instill in them the idea that "China is good and fantastic."
"Rather than saying those media are controlled by the 'red force,' it is more accurate to say they are controlled by corporations," Chang told CNA, citing as examples the networks CTiTV and TVBS.
The problem with media outlets controlled by business corporations is that they are more inclined to publish or spread information favorable to their owners or financial backers, he said.
Such outlets may also help turn Taiwanese more and more into "money-centered" individuals and cause them to lose sight of Taiwan's treasures, which are freedom and democracy, Chang said.
A 40-year-old woman from Taoyuan, who asked to be identified only by her surname Tan (丹), said she and her husband were there for the sake of their two children, ages 5 and 6.
"I am concerned that my children may be brainwashed by certain media when they grow up," she said, lamenting over the TV habits of her father, who she said watches only CTiTV and is a staunch fan of Kaohsiung Mayor Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜) of the KMT.
In a report published earlier this month, the NCC said CTiTV and CTV had dedicated an unusually high proportion of their air time in the two weeks leading up to last November's local government elections to Han, compared with other major TV networks.
The NCC has also fined CTiTV several times for failing to fact-check its information, including once in April this year after the network aired an interview with a pomelo farmer, who falsely claimed that 2 million tonnes of the fruit had to be dumped in the Zengwen Reservoir last year because the price had fallen so low.