Authorities in Taiwan are set to fully ban Chinese streaming platforms iQiyi and Tencent from operating on the democratic island, removing a final loophole that had routed their content via Hong Kong-listed partner companies.
The economic affairs ministry said it will prohibit Chinese media companies from sending their content to Taiwan via subsidiaries, with effect from early next month.
Taiwan's communications regulator said it will ban individuals, companies, and other organizations from transmitting content originating in China via the internet from Sept. 3.
"Violators will be investigated and dealt with by the National Communications Commission," the economic affairs ministry said in an announcement on its website dated Aug. 18.
iQIYI had formed a partnership with Taiwanese agency iOTT via its Hong Kong-based subsidiary, while Tencent's WeTV had been streaming in Taiwan thanks to a deal between its Hong Kong-based Image Future Investment and Taiwan's Ren Feng Media Tech.
But the new regulations weren't brought in until after Chinese state broadcaster CCTV began exploring similar avenues to have its content streamed in Taiwan.
Repeated attempts to contact iQiyi's agent in Taiwan had met with no response by the time of writing on Wednesday.
Controlled by the CCP
Lin Ying-ta, professor of information engineering at Taiwan's National Chiao Tung University, said iQiyi, Tencent's WeTV and other Chinese platforms are ultimately controlled by the Chinese Communist Party.
"These platforms could collect users' personal information on the server side, and may break through information security protocols on the mobile or user side," Lin told RFA.
"It's misleading to view this as a content issue ... The content is fine to broadcast, but [the apps] may manage to steal personal data by cracking phone security," he said.
Lin said the authorities have been forced to update their definition of "China-funded" to include third-party deals with companies ostensibly domiciled in Hong Kong.
But he said the current political climate during which U.S. President Donald Trump has banned Americans from doing business with Chinese-owned video platform TikTok and is considering doing the same with WeChat, citing data security concerns, likely played more of a role.
"The answer is very simple: because the Americans requested it," Lin said. "Taiwan is being brought into line to block these apps because the U.S. wants to do this."
However, Chen Mi-shun of the ministry of economic affairs said he could see no connection between Taiwan's move and the U.S. ban on TikTok when asked by journalists on Wednesday.
Taiwanese president Tsai Ing-wen has warned that Chinese influence and infiltration could lead to dire consequences, citing the recent national security crackdown imposed by Beijing on Hong Kong.
'Taiwan can defend itself'
China's CCTV broadcast a threat in a commentary earlier this week, reminding Taiwan of possible military invasion and annexation of the island, which has never been ruled by the Chinese Communist Party, nor formed part of the People's Republic of China.
Tsai said she is confident that Taiwan, which is officially ruled by the 1911 Republic of China established after the fall of the Qing dynasty, can defend itself.
Soon afterwards, a U.S. guided-missile destroyer transited the Taiwan Strait on Tuesday following an exercise with Japanese Maritime Self Defense Forces, U.S. 7th Fleet said in a statement.
USS Mustin (DDG-89), operating as part of the Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group, transited the strait as USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76) operated in the South China Sea.
“Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Mustin (DDG 89) conducted a routine Taiwan Strait transit Aug. 18 in accordance with international law," the statement said.
"The ship’s transit through the Taiwan Strait demonstrates the U.S. commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific. The U.S. Navy will continue to fly, sail, and operate anywhere international law allows," the U.S. 7th Fleet said.
The passage through the strait came two days after Mustin and the Akizuki-class guided-missile destroyer JS Suzutsuki (DD-117) operated together in the East China Sea, the U.S. Naval Institute said in a news report on its website.
Bookseller Lam Wing-kei, who fled to Taiwan after being detained in China for selling "banned" political books legally from Hong Kong, said Taiwan is raising its guard amid growing tension with China.
"It seems as if Taiwan needs to start strengthening its defenses," Lam said. "They need to be prepared to mobilize."
He said there has been very little sense of national mobilization in the island's media, however.
"They should step up media reports so that the public doesn't take the threat too lightly," he warned.
Reported by Hwang Chun-mei for RFA's Mandarin Service, and by Chung Kuang-cheng for the Cantonese Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.