Wang Zhian, a Tokyo-based mainland Chinese journalist, sparked an online backlash after mocking Taiwanese election campaigns on a comedy talk show. He was subsequently banned from entering Taiwan for five years.
The ex-Chinese Central Television (CCTV) journalist was slammed for his discriminatory joke about a disabled legislative candidate, Chen Chun-han of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), in a comedy talk show “The Night Night Show with Hello”. The episode was released on January 22, 2024.
Two days later, Taiwan’s National Immigration Agency (NIA) stated that Wang had breached his tourist visa term by appearing on the show and hence revoked his entry permit and banned him from entering Taiwan for five years.
However, some were sceptical about the reasoning, as many Chinese independent journalists and bloggers, such as Sydney Daddy on X, had travelled to Taiwan on a tourist visa to observe the Taiwanese elections.
Wang's political jokes
Wang Zhian was a former TV news host for China’s state-owned CCTV. On June 4, 2019, his social media accounts from three major platforms were removed. Eventually, he left China and settled in Japan in 2020. He is currently the chief reporter of Tokyo Fuko and runs a YouTube channel with about 1.2 million subscribers commenting on mainland Chinese current affairs.
Like many Chinese independent journalists, he travelled to Taiwan in January for two weeks to observe the Taiwanese general elections. In the process, he interviewed many local Taiwanese on their views on the elections, Taiwan society, cross-strait relations, and more.
Wang Zhian made several political jokes during the 30-minute show. For example, near the end of the talk show (see the embedded video below), when cohost Albee said, “rise-up China”, Wang raised Taiwan’s national flag while the host Horlung raised China’s national flag and told Albee, “The Republic of China (ROC) represents China. The People's Republic of China (PRC) is called Beijing, China.” Wang also jokingly accused Horlung of acting like a traitor as he raised the PRC flag in Taiwan. Horlung answered in a satirical tone, “Artists do not have nationality.”
— 中華民國光復者🇹🇼 🇺🇦 🇺🇸🇯🇵🇰🇷 (@roclove2020) January 24, 2024
Wang's controversial comment took place when he was asked about his impression of Taiwan’s presidential elections during the interview. Wang answered:
Taiwan's presidential election is like a show. Going to a campaign site gives people the feeling that they have gone to the wrong movie theatre, not like a political campaign stage, but like a concert site, with singers paving the way and those who “push the disabled up to stir up emotion”… Once the tears come, the music follows, and the disabled man says, “Support the Democratic Progressive Party and rescue Wang Yi-chuan”! [Wang imitated the disabled politician’s gesture when he uttered the line.
It is a bad joke. An overseas mainland Chinese YouTuber, SydneyDaddy, posted the 23-second video clip on X and suggested Wang make a public apology:
— 悉尼奶爸 SydneyDaddy 雪梨奶爸 (@SydneyDaddy1) January 23, 2024
#TheNightNightTalkwithHello has deleted the 23-second clip on YouTube and made a public apology; they also deleted the whole interview on Facebook. Chen Chun-han, DPP’s disabled legislative candidate at-large, has publicly condemned the show. This was Wang Zhian’s first big ignorant mistake. The most proper response is a solemn apology; at least stay low. The worst reaction is to create another spectacle. […]
Many Taiwanese, in particular DPP’s supporters, found the joke offensive, as the disabled politician in question is Chen Chun-han, who suffers from Spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) syndrome and survived a fire that led to the amputation of both his legs. He overcame the physical difficulties and obtained the professional status of a lawyer and accountant. Chen was listed in the DPP legislative candidate at-large list and appeared at DPP’s election rally on January 12, calling on the people to vote for the DPP for the party’s commitment to vulnerable groups’ needs and rights.
In an open statement, Chen urged Wang Zhian to reflect upon his stereotype against the disabled as political tools, rather than autonomous, competent actors, and suggested that his comment was a result of his mainland Chinese background:
Perhaps Wang’s comment is related to his background; perhaps he doesn’t understand what is behind the value of democracy, freedom and human rights.
In response to the outrage, Wang said he would like to apologize to Chen for offending him. However, he insisted that the DPP was using the disabled politician in its election campaign as it placed Chen as the 16th in the at-large legislative candidates, which means Chen was unlikely to win his seat. The total number of seats in the at-large legislative constituency is 34, out of which the DPP won 13 seats.
Five-year visa ban controversy
Then on January 23, the Taiwanese Immigration Authority issued a five-year travel ban forbidding Wang from entering Taiwan as a tourist. According to Taiwan’s immigration law on travellers with mainland Chinese background, mainland tourists cannot appear on media outlets or participate in election campaigns, rallies and commercial activities. However, the law has been implemented selectively as, for decades, a large number of mainland Chinese have travelled to Taiwan to observe elections, participate in pride parades, etc. Hence, many also criticized the ruling party for abusing its power to suppress critical voices against the DPP.
Huang Cheng-yi, a Taiwanese law professor, also criticized the Taiwanese authority’s decision:
— 黃丞儀 (@Cheng_yi_Huang) January 24, 2024
Wang had once said that China and Taiwan were two distinctive entities even though they looked the same from the outside. This was not the first time he had travelled to Taiwan to observe the elections, and he commented that now that Taiwan had democracy, China had no excuse not to implement a democratic system. From the perspective of making friends, there is no need to corner him like this. Just making it clear that we do not like that mockery of the disabled should be enough.
The current decision to ban him from entering Taiwan for five years is regrettable and too heavy. How about other YouTubers who travel to Taiwan, would the law apply to them too?
Worse still, Wang’s critical comments against the DPP have added fuel to a circulating conspiracy theory alleging the ex-CCTV host is a mainland Chinese spy — partly because Wang has exposed some scandals within overseas mainland Chinese dissidents, such as the Falungong’s network in his YouTube channel. But many also spoke out for Wang by pointing out that his critique against mainland Chinese authorities has been equally unsympathetic and sharp.
In the latest contention, however, some DPP supporters vowed they would find ways to pressure the Japanese government to revoke his visa. Wang responded to the criticism with dark humour:
— 王局志安 (@wangzhian8848) January 25, 2024
I feel my life is hanging by a thread, and I can't take it anymore. Expelled by the Chinese Communist Party and banned from entering the ROC (Taiwan), now they file reports to the Japanese government and preventively to the United States, too. There is no way out. Who can help me contact Xi Jinping? Or do I have to turn myself to the Chinese government? The worst is to stay in prison for 18 years, like Ren Zhiqiang.
Ren is a CCP member, a real estate tycoon, and an opinion leader. He disappeared on March 12, 2020, after calling Xi Jinping a clown over his zero-COVID policy. In September 2020, he was sentenced to 18 years’ imprisonment on corruption charges.
In a parallel development, many mainland Chinese X users started labelling the DPP as the Green Communist Party (綠共), arguing that Wang's visa ban shows the Taiwanese ruling party's attitude towards free speech is selective.