The Taiwanese government is investigating a local television station after it aired alarming false reports of a Chinese invasion on the self-governing island.
During a Wednesday morning newscast on the government-affiliated China Television System (CTS), which is part of Taiwan’s public broadcasting system, the network aired several fictitious tickers about China firing missiles towards the capital. Taipei.
“New Taipei City was hit by communist army missiles; Taipei Port blew up, facilities and ships damaged,” read one of the tickers. “It is suspected that enemy agents set fire to and planted explosives at Banqiao Station.”
Another ticker said, “The Chinese Communists have intensified their preparations for a war, and the President (of Taiwan) has issued an emergency order.”
The erroneous reports come as Taipei raises concerns over potential military actions by China against the island following Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine. Communist-ruled China says Taiwan – a democratic island of 23 million people – is an inalienable part of its territory, despite never having ruled it.
Communist authorities in Beijing refused to rule out the use of force to take control of Taiwan and exerted military pressure on the island, flying warplanes into its air defense identification zone and organizing naval exercises around her.
China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) held joint combat readiness drills around Taiwan last week as a group of six bipartisan U.S. lawmakers met with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen in Taipei.
US support for Taiwan, including through arms sales, has angered Beijing.
Taiwan maintains that it is determined to defend itself against all forms of aggression. Last week, Taiwan’s Defense Ministry released a civil defense manual detailing how residents should respond in the event of a military conflict.
On Wednesday, after the false reports hit the screen, CTS issued a public apology and said the messages were created for use in fire drills and were not intended for public broadcast. .
The network had also aired tickers falsely claiming that there had been panic buying in Taiwan due to the military conflict and that a magnitude 7 earthquake had occurred in New Taipei City.
In a public apology released later Wednesday, CTS said, “In addition to urgently clarifying and apologizing to our audience through our anchors, CTS also broadcast our apologies on our various channels. We also punished the staff, supervisors and relevant managers for dereliction of duty.”
The erroneous report was widely shared on social media platforms, with some calling for the TV station to be investigated.
Taiwan’s National Communications Commission said in a statement that CTS is suspected of violating public disorder laws. He said he was opening an investigation into the incident.
The commission said it had received 10 complaints from viewers, adding that the network could be fined up to NTD 2 million ($68,530) for its violations.
Taiwan Defense Minister Chiu Kuo-cheng told parliament on Wednesday he was “surprised” by the incident and urged the public to verify the information before commenting.
“It’s a good lesson for our friends in the media industry,” he said.