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Sun, Mar 30, 1997
Reporters Sued for Libel: report on Clinton-KMT funds link touches raw nerve

also: Gingrich says US will defend Taiwan; more info on Japanese aid program; Thailand & Vietnam talk; change in HK rules for British citizens; and more . . .
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Taiwan: we have a very interesting story. It's been on-going for months. But it's still quite timely and important. Readers should pay close attention to it. It involves an American reporter by the name of Ying Chan and her counterpart Hsieh Chung-liang in Taiwan, who broke a story last October in the Hong Kong magazine Yazhou Shoukan (Asia Weekly). It would seem that Ms Ying and Mr Hsieh stepped on the toes of a Mr Liu Tai-ying, whom Ying describes as "the top manager of the KMT's $3 billion business empire." In their article the two detail "how Mark E. Middleton, a former White House aide and associate of President Clinton, allegedly hustled for campaign money in Taiwan." The article "reported allegations that a top official of the KMT offered to give $15 million to Clinton's campaign."

As the top-official identified in the article, Mr Liu decided his good name had been tarnished by these allegations and brought a criminal libel suit in Taiwan against the two reporters. If found guilty, the Taiwan government might bar Ying from entering the country. Hsieh, a resident of Taiwan, could be sent to jail. President Lee Tung-hui has given his full support for the suit, and others apparently see a "communist plot" behind the whole thing.

The trial is proceeding ahead, according to the last update report on Ying's page. But truth has a sneaky way of catching people in their lies and silliness, and trials can bring unexpected results. Ying says, her position has already won in the "court of public opinion, internationally and in Asia, hands down." In Hong Kong and Taiwan, where the case has drawn considerable attention, Ying takes heart in that

    ". . . ideas like actual malice, public figure, and reckless disregard have entered into discussions about press freedom in Taiwan. These ideas are of course the central tenets of the landmark 1964 New York Times vs. Sullivan, which holds that public officials like Mr. Liu Tai-ying are subject to public scrutiny. The Sullivan decision also says that not even mistaken criticism can be grounds for an official's libel action unless the writer deliberately propagates the falsehood or is aware that what he writes is probably false."

Ying says the facts of the story were well researched and subsequently confirmed by other US and Taiwan publications.

"I like to think that we've become accidental heroes," she writes. "We've also helped to bring the Sullivan principles to a part of the world where reporters are constantly harassed by malicious libel suits."

Readers are encouraged to explore this issue further. Ying has assembled considerable information on the subject, including scans of the actual Asia Weekly story---the words which began this rather crazy affair. From there links to other pertinent sites can be found.

United States: tough words---House Speaker Newt Gingrich said today he informed "China's top leaders that the United States would intervene militarily if Taiwan was attacked," reports the New York Times.

Gingrich delivered his message to Wang Daohan, China's chief representative in talks with Taiwan, and said he had given the same message to Jiang Zemin and Li Peng last week, reports the paper.

    Gingrich said:
  • "I said firmly, 'We want you to understand, we will defend Taiwan. Period.' I think that they are more aware now that we would defend Taiwan if it were militarily attacked. . . . We never got into an argument. They never said, 'Well you can't have that right---that's interference.' They said, 'OK, noted.' And then they basically would say: 'Since we don't intend to attack, you won't have to defend. Let's go on and talk about how we're going to get this thing solved.' And I think that's very healthy."

  • "I didn't flinch, but they didn't flinch either, because I wasn't hostile. If you can be respectful but firm, you can get a long way talking with the Chinese. I think that's a key part of this. We are who we are. We believe passionately in freedom. To deal with us is to deal with a free people. Now having said that, they are a great nation. The more we honor their pride and we honor their national achievement, the easier it is to then get them talking openly about democracy."

He made these remarks in Shanghai on Sunday, where he attended "an Easter service in a church built by American in the 1920s," reports the paper. He said: "It was a wonderful thing to be in Shanghai celebrating the Resurrection of Christ and to have a chance to worship with Chinese and Australians and others. I think that's a good sign. We want to encourage that kind of openness."

The Chinese government has not issued a public response to Gingrich, reports the paper, and the Clinton administration said he was " speaking for himself". Yet, Gingrich and Gore supposably coordinated their messages to some extent, and one wonders whether the administration knew of his intentions. The Times reports other details; I encourage you to read the entire article.

(Note: the New York Times on-line edition is free, but requires that users register a name and password, and therefore first-time users should first introduce themselves on the Times registration page.)

Japan: we have an update on yesterday's story concerning Japan's resumption of grand-in-aid programs to the PRC. Inside China reports, the grants amount to 7 billion yen ($13.8 million), and are quite small in comparison to "about 580 billion yen (US$4.71 billion) in yen loans planned for the 1996-1998 period." Japan suspended the grants in August 1995 in protest of China's testing of a nuclear device that month; the yen loans were not suspended. The PRC signed the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) at the United Nations in September 1996 and imposed a moratorium on nuclear testing. According to the paper, the first program to be funded under the resumed grant-in-aid program will be a 1.7 billion yen (US$13.8 million) medical project in Nanjing; the paper does not provide further details about the project.

The China Daily reports on the meeting of President Jiang Zemin, Premier Li Peng and Japanese Foreign Minister Yukihiko Ikeda.

Thailand: Prime Minister Chavalit Yongchaiyudh was in Hanoi today and held talks with his counterpart Vo Van Kiet on how to improve bilateral ties. Thailand has suggested the two establish "a joint development area . . . in an effort to resolve a dispute involving overlapping territorial waters on the continental shelf," reports the Bangkok Post. Unlike the row between Hanoi and Beijing, this one mainly centers on fishing rights in the Gulf of Tonkin, not drilling rights.

Vietnam's spokesman has characterized the talks as examples of the "goodwill on both sides to continue friendship and cooperation not only on bilateral relations but in the framework of Asean." When asked whether the two discussed the Sino-Vietnam dispute, the spokesman said they concentrated on "bilateral issues," reports the paper.

Prime Minister Chavalit said Asean would seek a peaceful way, in accordance with the 1992 Asean Declaration on the South China Sea, to settle any dispute, reports the paper. "Asean members would like to see peace, stability and prosperity in the region. Thailand will do its best to maintain that, even as an intermediary. But it is not for Thailand to judge what is right or wrong," the paper quotes Chavalit.

Hong Kong: according to new regulations announced on Thursday by the Hong Kong government, British citizens who "want to work, study or settle in Hong Kong" after July 1 "will have to obtain a visa in the same way as other foreign nationals, and the same criteria for approval will apply."

"British citizens who have resided in Hong Kong for seven years and acquired the right to land can continue to enter and remain in Hong Kong without any restrictions."

But the government said it expects to take further actions to remove "other rights enjoyed exclusively by British citizens in the Immigration Ordinance. This would be a separate exercise, requiring legislation." The government is waiting on this action, pending clarification of the right of abode arrangements for British citizens

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China Informed

a news service focused on China, Taiwan and Hong Kong
©1997 Matthew Sinclair-Day