Taiwan’s Military Shelves Law That Would Criminalize Spreading Rumors

The amendment to Taiwan's mobilization laws sparked backlash and concerns about reverting to the policies of Taiwan's martial law era

Taiwan’s military has agreed to temporarily put on hold controversial proposed amendments to a law that would criminalize the spread of rumors during times of war, The South China Morning Post reported Monday.

The changes the Taiwanese Defense Ministry has proposed to the All-out Defense Mobilization Readiness Act would put “government controls” on all media when Taiwan is mobilized for a conflict. It would punish “spreading rumors or disinformation during wartime” with up to three years in prison or a $32,000 fine.

The amendment caused backlash and drew comparisons to the time when Taiwan was under martial law from 1949 to 1987, known as the “White Terror” period. During that time, Taiwan had a secret police known as the Taiwan Garrison Command that was responsible for silencing dissent and secret executions.

Another aspect of the amendments would require education authorities to provide a list of students aged 16 and up, raising concern among parents that their children could be drafted. The proposal came after Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen extended Taiwan’s compulsory military service from four months to one year, which will take effect in 2024.

Members of Taiwan’s main opposition party, the Kuomintang (KMT), said the law did not define the mobilization preparation period well enough and warned the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) could take advantage of the vagueness to consolidate power.

“The proposal fails to denote the time frame of mobilization preparation,” said Wu Sz-huai, a KMT member of Taiwan’s Legislative Yuan. “Such ambiguity would give the DPP government a blank check to declare preparation for mobilization, thus allowing it to have absolute control of the media to silence dissenting voices, even if it is not wartime.”

Author: Dave DeCamp

Dave DeCamp is the news editor of Antiwar.com, follow him on Twitter @decampdave.