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Taiwan to block Tencent and Baidu streaming sites on security risk


正文:Taiwan is cracking down on video streaming services of Chinese tech giants Baidu and Tencent Holdings, citing national security and propaganda concerns ahead of a presidential election next year.


Chiu Chui-Cheng, deputy minister of Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council, told the Nikkei Asian Review on Thursday that Taiwan is likely to ban Baidu's popular iQiyi platform, and block Tencent's plan to bring its streaming service to the island later this year.


"We are concerned that streaming media services that have close ties with Beijing could have cultural and political influences in Taiwan... and even affect Taiwan's elections," Chiu said.


iQiyi's main offerings are Chinese and South Korean dramas, while Netflix provides more English-language shows. Two popular dramas on iQiyi recently were "Story of Yanxi Palace" and "Ruyi's Royal Love in the Palace," high-budget period dramas that looked at women's struggle for power in China's ancient imperial court.


The Chinese streamer's discounted monthly subscription now stands at 227 New Taiwan dollars ($7.36) for two devices, compared with Netflix's monthly plan of NT$270 for one device.


OTT Entertainment, founded by iQiyi's Taiwan regional head, Young Ming, in October 2015, says it has no links with the Beijing-based company. OTT told Nikkei it is Taiwanese company that pays taxes and complies with government regulations.


Meanwhile, Tencent Video is considering following iQiyi into Taiwan sometime this year, according to officials and industry sources.


Neither iQiyi nor Tencent responded to requests for comment.


"Chinese video streaming operators cannot operate in Taiwan," Minister of Economic Affairs Shen Jong-chin told parliament on March 20. "Finding an agent to do business here is an apparent loophole, and we will fix the hole."


Taiwan's Investment Commission has asked the Justice Ministry's investigative bureau to review the share ownership structure of OTT Entertainment.


"If we find any Chinese investments in OTT Entertainment, we will demand the company withdraw the investment and leave Taiwan immediately," Emile Chang, secretary executive of the commission, told the Nikkei on Thursday. "If we can deal with iQiyi's case, we can prevent Tencent from exploiting the same loophole."

“如果我们发现任何中国资本投资OTT娱乐,我们将要求该公司撤回投资并立即离开台湾,”该委员会秘书长Emile Chang周四告诉日经新闻。“如果我们可以处理好爱奇艺的案子,我们也可以阻止腾讯利用同样的漏洞。”

Increasingly harsh rhetoric from China this year has prompted the Tsai administration to toughen its stance on what it sees as interference by Beijing in the island's affairs.


"Most big Chinese companies inevitably have a close relationship with the government, and I understand the woes from Taiwan's side on cultural infiltration from China," said Liu Ningrong, a professor and principal at the Institute for China Business at the University of Hong Kong.


"However, there is no firewall on the internet in Taiwan and people could always look online to reach iQiyi, Tencent Video and other Chinese platforms..... It's very unlikely to [be able to] exclude those contents," Liu said.


Katherine Chen, a political communication professor at National Chengchi University and a former commissioner at the National Communications Commission, said it is likely that more topics related to China-Taiwan relations will be brought up in the coming months ahead of the elections..


"Either to criticize or give friendly talks on China-related issues is the best way to gain eyeballs and to be discussed among the public, which will benefit politicians who wish to run the elections next year," Chen said.