The Anti-Media Monopoly Movement

The Anti-Media Monopoly Movement

The Anti-Media Monopoly Movement opposed the buying up of Taiwanese media companies by companies with substantial investments in China, leading to restrictions on press freedoms

The Anti-Media Monopoly Movement (反媒體壟斷運動) opposed the buying up of Taiwanese media companies by companies with substantial investments in China and the subsequent political pro-China skew of media outlets which were bought out by such companies. In particular, the pro-China Want Want Group (旺旺) was heavily demonstrated for its acquisition of the China Times Group and the China Times (中國時報) newspaper subsequently leaning in a heavily pro-China direction, as well as the Want Want Group’s attempt to purchase China Network Systems (中嘉集團), the second-largest cable TV provider in Taiwan.

Demonstrators were also critical of financial regulators and the National Communications Commission failing to regulate purchases of Taiwanese companies by Chinese companies or companies with large Chinese investment even when this led to restrictions on freedom of information, a failing of the Ma administration. Tsai Eng-meng (蔡衍明), the owner of Want Want and the wealthiest person in Taiwan, was quite clear about his aim to promote pro-unification ideas to aid the eventual unification of Taiwan and China with his media purchases.

Anti-media monopoly demonstration on September 1st, 2012. Photo credit: Shih-Shiuan Kao/Flickr/CC

The Anti-Media Monopoly Movement continued all the way up until the Sunflower Movement itself, with demonstrations occurring in 2011 and 2012. After a small demonstration outside of the National Communications Commission on July 25th, 2014 and a demonstration outside Want Want headquarters on July 31st which drew 700, the movement saw its peak with a march on September 1st, 2014 that began at the headquarters of the Want Want China Times in Wanhua (萬華) and finished outside of the National Communications Commission. Close to 10,000 individuals participated. The demonstration was organized by the Youth Alliance Against Media Monster (反媒體巨獸青年聯盟), which had a large membership of National Taiwan University (國立臺灣大學) students, in conjunction with the Association of Taiwan Journalists (台灣新聞記者協會). Youth Alliance Against Media Monster took a central role in leading the movement.

Major figures of the Sunflower Movement including Chen Wei-Ting (陳為廷), Lin Fei-Fan (林飛帆), and Huang Kuo-Chang (黃國昌) first became known to the Taiwanese public through the Anti-Media Monopoly Movement. Lin Fei-fan became known as one of the leading students who had been organizing demonstrations against the Want Want Group, for example. Huang Kuo-Chang, a professor at Academia Sinica (中央研究院), was the organizer of the demonstration on July 25th, 2014, outside of the National Communications Commission, something which led to accusations against him of paying students to demonstrate from publications within the Want Want Group.

Lin Fei-Fan and other speakers at the rally. Photo credit: Shih-Shiuan Kao/Flickr/CC

Such accusations were substantiated through pictures showing “suspicious individuals” in the demonstration on July 25th, but it was later demonstrated through photos uploaded to the Internet by students that the suspicious individuals within the demonstration were actually employees of the Want Want Group, who presumably had infiltrated the demonstration in order to discredit it. Chen Wei-Ting, a student who had shared the image, was later sued by the Want Want Group, leading to public attention to be focused on him.

Chen later became the focus of public attention again after criticizing then-Minister of Education Chiang Wei-ling of hypocrisy when Chiang claimed at a public forum that he was concerned with the students who were participating in demonstrations, seeing as the Ministry of Education otherwise firmly hewed to the then-ruling Ma administration. This led to public attacks on Chen from publications associated with the Want Want Group and National Tsing Hua University (國立清華大學) apologizing for Chen’s behavior and seemingly later forcing Chen himself to apologize, leading to concerns about restrictions on freedom under Chinese from even Taiwan’s leading academic institutions.

Photo credit: Shih-Shiuan Kao/Flickr/CC

Such events were instrumental in leading to anger against Want Wang, seeing as Want Want was apparently willing to defame academics and others as an early sign of deteriorating press freedoms in Taiwan. Demonstrations were later coordinated in the summer with the slogan of resisting Want Want during Ghost Month (鬼月), with protest aesthetics drawing on Ghost Month and the symbolics of the burning of ghost money, a theme later seen in much protest art in subsequent years, inclusive of the Sunflower Movement.

Subsequently, concerns were raised about the effects on media freedoms with the takeover of Next Media (壹傳媒), which owned the Apple Daily (頻果日報), and was critical of both the pan-Blue and pan-Green camps, with owner Jimmy Lai (黎智英) of Hong Kong deciding to remove himself from the Apple Daily and a number of Taiwanese investors hoping to buy up the company. Demonstrations were organized on November 29th and a photo campaign was launched for individuals to take pictures of themselves with signs reading “Reject the black hand of China, uphold freedom of the press, I protect Taiwan in ___ ” (反對媒體壟斷、拒絕中國黑手、捍衛新聞自由、我在___守護台灣).

Noam Chomsky holding an anti-media monopoly sign. Photo credit: Lin Ting-An/Facebook

On December 26th of that year, Lin Ting-An (林庭安), a master’s student in philosophy of mind at National Yang Ming University (國立陽明大學) and later a member of the “Windmill Chorus” of the 4-5-6 Movement, would attract controversy for meeting with Noam Chomsky and taking a picture of Chomsky holding the sign, with some accusing Lin of having tricked Chomsky into holding a sign which was “anti-Chinese.” Solidarity was also sought from Ai Weiwei (艾未未), the famed Chinese dissident artist. Achieving such international attention was in many ways the apex of the movement. 1,000 later gathered to demonstrate on the night December 31st during a flag raising ceremony marking the new year.


Photo credit: Shih-Shiuan Kao/Flickr/CC