Criminal libel charges pressed against American reporter, others
TAIWAN–The chief financial advisor of Taiwan’s ruling party in early November filed criminal libel charges in Taipei against two reporters, one of their sources and a magazine manager over a story about illegal contributions to President Clinton’s re-election campaign.
Liu Tai-Ying, a Kuomintang Party business manager who directs more than $3 billion in party assets, claims a Hong-Kong based magazine reported false information, including that he offered to give $15 million to Clinton’s campaign.
In late October, Ying Chan, a Chinese-American reporter, and Hsieh Chung-liang, a Taiwanese journalist, co-wrote an article for the Asian Weekly stating that Liu made the $15 million offer during an August meeting with Mark Middleton, a former special aide to Clinton. Such a contribution would be illegal under United States election law, which forbids candidates from taking donations from foreign governments or residents.
The journalists also reported that following the meeting, a “secret diplomatic channel between the U.S. and Taiwan has rapidly opened up.”
Denials from both Liu and Middleton concerning the offer and the relationship were included in the article, and it was never stated that Liu actually donated the $15 million.
However, Liu claims that the reporters should be punished under Taiwanese criminal code, which allows for fines and a two-year jail term for defamation. Liu is also filing criminal complaints against Chen Chao-ping, a Taiwanese business consultant who was a primary source for the story, and Wong Suewen, manager of the magazine that published the article.
Robert Balin, an attorney representing the defendants, said, “It really is using criminal libel as a tool to stifle legitimate inquiry into allegations of wrong doing” and called the case a “classic seditious libel prosecution.”
An initial hearing in the case was scheduled for early December in Taiwan. As of early December, Chan, who lives in New York, had not been officially notified of the suit.
The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press wrote a protest letter to Taiwan’s President Lee Tang-Hui, urging him to “repudiate this criminal libel action, and to encourage Liu to withdraw his complaint.” (Liu v. Chen; Media Counsel: Robert Balin, New York City; Anthony Lo, Taiwan)