Chen Shui-bian Tries to Calm Criticism Against Raid on Magazine Offices

By LIU Weijun, CNS, 27 March 2002

[CND, 03/27/02] Taiwanese President CHEN Shui-bian took on the national security and press freedom issues on Monday to ease criticism over government's recent moves against outspoken media groups, the South China Morning Post reported on Tuesday.

Speaking to military officers in a meeting, Chen promised to reform the island's national security and military apparatus and support parliamentary oversight of intelligence units and budgets. He also expressed support for a system for the de-classification and dissemination of out-of-date secret documents. Chen argued that the national security and freedom of press don't have to be at odd with each other.

Chen, however, apparently put more weight on national security. National security is what the state and the people rely upon for their continued existence, he said, while freedom of the press is the basis for strengthening democracy and reform. But he promised that the government would find better approaches in handling similar situations.

Last Wednesday, the Taipei offices of Hong Kong-based Next Magazine was raided by authorities after it had published a report about secret slush funds of over HK$780 million, which administered by the National Security Bureau to finance the island's diplomatic allies and overseas lobbyists. The authorities reportedly confiscated more than 160,000 copies of magazines during the raids. On Monday, Justice Minister CHEN Ding-nan maintained that the raids were conducted for national security.

In another case, the government has threaten to take the editor-in-chief of the China Times to court on treason charge for printing a similar report.