The Taiwanese presidential office has hit out at Hong Kong newspaper Ta Kung Pao, accusing the China-owned publication of producing fake news about the president and a senior Taiwanese journalist.

Ta Kung Pao’s front page story on Wednesday claimed that a “secret envoy” of Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen on Tuesday morning met with three Hong Kong pro-independence activists of the group Student Localism. They met at Taipei’s Academia Historia, next to the presidential office.

Ta Kung Pao
Su Yong-yao on front page of Ta Kung Pao, January 16, 2019. Photo: Screenshot.

But the “secret envoy” was in fact Su Yong-yao, a senior political reporter of Taiwan’s Liberty Times.

Su said he had arranged to meet with the activists to interview them, because Ta Kung Pao had published reports on Monday after following the activists around in Taiwan.

“[The Ta Kung Pao accusation] is ridiculous. But it shows that Chinese and Hong Kong intelligence agents have been blatantly working in every corner. It is a danger to Taiwan’s national security, democracy and freedom,” Su said on Wednesday.

Taiwanese presidential office spokesperson Alex Huang condemned Ta Kung Pao on Thursday for its attempt at misleading the public.

“It was a piece of fake news,” Huang said.

Tsai Ing-wen
Tsai Ing-wen. File Photo: Flickr/presidentialoffice.

Huang said the presidential office had attached importance to the incident, saying that Ta Kung Pao “unlawfully followed and surveilled” Taiwanese citizens and tourists to Taiwan.

“Taiwan is a democratic country,” Huang said. “We have requested relevant units including the National Security Bureau to investigate the incident, to ensure the safety of our citizens and tourists to Taiwan.”

May Yang, a Taiwanese anti-communist activist who lived in Hong Kong for 20 years before the 1997 Handover, was also present at the meeting between Su and the Hong Kong activists.

“It’s laughable – I was meeting with the press, what does it have to do with President Tsai?” she said.

Tony Chung, convener of Student Localism and one of the activists being followed, told HKFP that the interview was conducted at the Academia Historia because it was their first time visiting Taiwan.

“We went there for sightseeing, for convenience. It was that simple,” he said.

Chung said he had known Yang for sometime, which was why Yang had been invited to the meeting to chat.

Taiwan presidential office
Office of the President, Taiwan. Photo: Taiwan presidential office.

In response, Ta Kung Pao carried a report on Thursday claiming Su was “not an ordinary reporter.”

It claimed that Taiwan’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party had often sent people outside the government, such as scholars and journalists, to get in touch with Hong Kong pro-independence activists. It also claimed Su has been writing anti-China reports.

“Liberty Times claimed Ta Kung Pao had made a mistake in an attempt to divert attention, but it cannot hide the fact that Taiwan independence and Hong Kong independence [activists] were colluding with each other,” the Thursday report read.

Kris Cheng

Kris Cheng

Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.