To the viewers of Taiwanese television channel CTi-TV and its sister channel, CTV, it must have looked like one big party. Within minutes of Han Kuo-yu’s victory earlier this month over Terry Gou, the founder of Apple supplier Foxconn, in the opposition Kuomintang (KMT) presidential primary, footage of his supporters frantically waving national flags and firecrackers going off began flashing across TV screens.
Only national news related to Han was reported that day: A drumming troupe organized by his fans made the cut, but the visit of incumbent President Tsai Ing-wen to Taiwan’s diplomatic allies in the Caribbean did not.
The focus on the victory by the China-friendly Han, the populist mayor of Taiwan’s second-biggest city, Kaohsiung, was not a one-off. Over the past year, the two TV channels have given the 62-year-old former lawmaker nonstop coverage, helping to create the “Han Wave” — a craze that transformed a politician seen as past his prime into a resurgent star. But the effusive coverage has become a national security issue for the government of Tsai, whom Han is set to challenge in a general election next January. The channels belong to the Want Want China Times Group, a media company influenced by the Chinese government, raising concerns about the growing influence of Beijing in the island’s politics.