CHAPTER FOUR Media Face Need for Room with View
Even before July 1, 1997 the mounting evidence suggested that press freedom would be among the first casualties after the handover of Hong Kong to Mainland China.
Taipei, it was argued, should thus prepare itself to become home base for foreign correspondents seeking more freedom than Hong Kong would be able to provide. On the basis of its strong points of location, freedom, human resources and technological expertise. Taiwan could become an Asia media center.
Other nations already were thinking about inheriting Hong Kong's role as Asia's information crossroads. For example, Taizo Watanabe, former Japanese Ambassador to Indonesia and Foreign Ministry spokesman, recommended that the Tokyo government establish an Asia media center in Okinawa. He proposed government-backed incentives to encourage foreign television production facilities to locate on the island. Foreign news organizations would be offered bureau facilities at rents much lower than Tokyo's exorbitant fees, Watanabe said.
Further impetus for foreign agencies to relocate from Mainland China was Beijing's announcement that it will restrict the dissemination of foreign financial news and might demand a cut of proceeds from such services. Mainland Foreign Minister Qian Qichen's warning that Hong Kong press criticism of Beijing officials and policies will not be allowed after the handover sounded an eerie note as well.
The decision by Reuters to set up a full-fledged branch in Taipei as the main hub for its news services to the Chinese-speaking areas of Asia, with 70 percent of the regional report edited there, is the start of what could become a trend. Reuter executives said the pool of highly trained, English-speaking and English-writing journalists in Taiwan was among the reasons for its decision to make Taipei a major news-processing point.
The journalism program at National Chengchi University has produced an illustrious group of alumni whose names are found throughout Taiwan's journalism, government and business ranks. New television, radio, magazine and public relations projects regularly tap the university's graduates for important posts.
As a visiting faculty member for two semesters in the university's Department of Journalism, I have been impressed by the quality and enthusiasm of the students. One doesn't have to look beyond National Chengchi University or the new graduate journalism program at National Taiwan University to find the best of Northeast Asia's up and coming writers and editors of English.