Around 30 students gathered at UC Berkeley’s C.V. Starr East Asian Library late Saturday morning as a statement of solidarity with a larger movement that opposes the sale of several popular Taiwanese media outlets.
Undeterred by the rain, the demonstrators held signs in support of media independence and freedom of speech in Taiwan and took a picture of themselves to send to a Taiwanese civic organization, Youth Alliance Against Media Monsters, which is working to raise awareness and incite public opposition to the sale.
“There is no better place to fight for freedom of press than at UC Berkeley,” said Ann Yang, a graduate student in the UC Berkeley School of Law. “This is the place where Mario Savio took a stand for free speech.”
This demonstration at UC Berkeley was part of a larger wave of demonstrations at universities across the nation instigated by the sale of two major Taiwanese print publications and a number of television networks to a group of Taiwanese businessmen on Tuesday. Apple Daily, one of Taiwan’s most popular newspapers, is widely recognized as one of the few politically neutral news sources in Taiwan, and many believe that this sale could potentially introduce bias to the paper’s stories.
One of the buyers listed in the sale was Taiwanese media magnate Tsai Shao-chung, who already controls a substantial share of the Taiwanese media market and has ties to the pro-Chinese newspaper, the China Times.
“There are three things that make this sale so wrong,” said Ching-Chang Huang, one of the organizers of the event and a UC Berkeley graduate student. “(Tsai’s) control of the market share, his personality as a corrupt businessman and (the fact that) he is pro-China.”
Activists in Taiwan, concerned about the possibility of losing Taiwan’s largest politically neutral news source and the monopolistic power Tsai would wield with control of Apple Daily, have already begun to demonstrate against the sale.
Taiwanese activists at universities around the world, including Texas A&M University, Kyoto University and UCLA, have shown their support for the movement by holding and photographing their own demonstrations this week. In Taiwan, those photographs have been used to publicize the sale and encourage demonstration. The demonstrators at UC Berkeley wanted to show the same support.
“If we support Taiwan from the outside, it will be effective so they know they are not alone,” said Huang. “(Tsai) bought Apple Daily, so he can control what he wants to say about people.”
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A previous version of this article said the protestors would be sending the picture to the Formosan Association for Public Affairs. In fact, they are sending it to the Youth Alliance Against Media Monsters, a civic group that demonstrates against acquisitions that threaten to create a media monopoly in Taiwan.