When we flew from Beijing to Taipei, within about two hours of exiting the airport I was in the middle of a noisy campaign rally, standing a couple of feet from Taiwan’s president, holding my microphone and questioning him on camera.
President Ma Ying-jeou paused, listened to my question (in English), answered and moved on. “What is the importance of building closer relations with China?” I asked. “Peace” was his answer.
President Ma’s campaign schedule was easily available to us. Where he would be every 20 minutes was listed in detail. His staff were happy to help facilitate us, and even the police guarding him were helpful, if watchful.
The next day it was the same for the opposition leader, Tsai Ing-wen. She took and answered a question, in English, on one of the most sensitive issues in her campaign: What were the risks for Taiwan in closer ties with China?
In two years in China I have never been in a position to ask questions of China’s president, or other of its senior leaders. I’ve been in the same room, but usually kept at the back of a hall as a state event happens, or a speech, or a reception for a visiting leader.
As a journalist, the contrast between the interactiveness of Taiwan’s democracy and the guardedness of China’s Communist Party is stark.
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