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Government raids magazine offices

(CPJ/IFEX) - In a 20 March 2002 letter to the president of the Republic of China, Chen Shui-bian, CPJ condemned that day's raid on the weekly magazine "Taiwan Next", which government authorities have accused of endangering national security.

The 21 March edition of the magazine featured a lengthy cover story titled "Lee Teng-hui Illegally Used 3.5 Billion Taiwan Dollars". The report revealed the existence of secret bank accounts that former president Lee's Kuomintang government allegedly used to fund espionage on mainland China and to pay various countries to maintain diplomatic relations with Taiwan, according to local and international press reports.

On 20 March, investigators searched the Taipei offices of the magazine, its printing plant outside the city, and the home of Hsieh Chung-liang, the journalist who wrote the article.

Police confiscated about 160,000 copies of the issue, according to sources at "Apple Daily", a Hong Kong-based sister publication of "Taiwan Next". Despite the raid, copies of the magazine were available on newsstands on the evening of 20 March, according to news reports.

The National Security Bureau (NSB) issued a statement declaring that officials had carried out the raid and confiscation in order to "protect national security and interests, and to protect the interests and safety of our international friends and relevant officials."

In response, "Taiwan Next" executive editor Pei Wei told reporters that the public had a right to know about the secret accounts. "The two secret funds have nothing to do with national secrets, so the search is a violation of press freedom," Pei Wei said.

"Taiwan Next", a popular tabloid-style news magazine, is published by Next Media Ltd., owned by Hong Kong media tycoon Jimmy Lai.

Recommended Action

Send appeals to the president:
- expressing your deep concern over the government's apparent attempt to censor "Taiwan Next"
- noting that it is particularly disturbing that the magazine has been accused of "endangering national security" for reporting on the use of government funds, a topic of legitimate public
- asking him to guarantee that his administration will not use national security concerns as a pretext to censor reporting
- stating that you consider this an important press freedom issue that has serious implications for the health of Taiwanese democracy

Appeals To

His Excellency Chen Shui-bian
President, Republic of China
Office of the President
122 Chung-King South Road-Section 1
Taipei, Taiwan
Republic of China
Fax: +886 2 2311 1604

Please copy appeals to the source if possible.

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