In a bold and expensive move Taiwan Civil Government paid for a full-page New York Times advertisement to bring attention to the plight of group leaders Roger and Julian Lin. The pricey ad ran on Sept. 24, 2018 and was the second full-page pitch in a year. The first ad in 2017, when Julian Lin attended a meeting at the United Nations building, cost $114,437 with $3,525 for layout making a total of $117,962. Assuming the new ad was similarly priced means TCG has spent nearly a quarter-million dollars with the New York Times without a single word in print about TCG other than the ads.
Good journalism does not require the New York Times to publish gratis and favorable articles about its sponsors. Although, for a newspaper that prides itself on being an international publication and definitive news source, the self-censorship over the prosecution of its advertisers is a betrayal to readers. Few crime stories have such a rich mix of money, motive, international intrigue, and a White House connection. The political fraud charges against Roger and Julian Lin are newsworthy allegations and TCG’s inroads into Washington inner circles have a lot of media names involved. However, the fog of strategic ambiguity that surrounds Taiwan has clouded the editorial vision at the newspaper.
The ad is a plea, from jail. “My name is Julian Lin and my husband and I have been speaking around the world for the international recognition of Taiwan. Now we are in jail for our political beliefs and exercising our right to free speech. We urge the UN to examine our case and the political ambiguity of Taiwan. Allowing my husband and me to languish in jail over expressing a legitimate political belief and desire for self-determination undermines the very foundation of the United Nations. Please stay true to your charter—free Taiwan from political purgatory and us from behind bars!”
The New York Times could have assigned its international reporters to explain precisely what is Taiwan’s sovereignty status and why that matters. Sovereignty seems to be a central factor in the prosecution case with the exiled Republic of China prosecutors acting as though the island’s status has already been resolved.
A sidebar story on Roger & Julian Lin v. United States of America & Republic of China would have informed readers about TCG’s effort in District of Columbia federal court to undo the 1946 Nationality Act which deprived Formosans of their Japanese nationality. The law was passed in occupied Taiwan by the Republic of China without American permission. The case ended with a decision that the time to resolve that matter in court had long since expired. Julian Lin was asked to account for her role in the District of Columbia lawsuit by the ROC judge hearing the political fraud case.
The New York Times political reporters would have numerous Washington insiders to interview to uncover the web of connections that Taiwan Civil Government was building. A spokesman for the Heritage Foundation called TCG a good partner while the editor of Foreign Policy was quick to swap cards with Julian Lin. Kellyanne Conway, Counselor to the President, got smiley face with Lin at a POLITICO Powerlist reception and Julian bumped noses with Trent Lott at a Roll Call Live special event.
The newspaper’s crime reporters could have explored the actual allegations against Roger and Julian Lin and interviewed complainants. The financial desk is well equipped to follow the money and there are supposedly millions of dollars to track. Finally, the editorial page could have put everything in context. Instead, the New York Times readers are left clueless and reporters who spotted the ad are told to continue to sit on their hands.
Was the money well spent? One informed opinion in Taiwan says no, the faraway ad in English will not have any influence on a court which speaks Chinese. An alternative view is that perhaps the advertisement will break the American media whiteout on the case but the lack of response by the New York Times is not a good sign.
Meanwhile, Julian Lin sits in a bare cell, in solitary confinement, denied any visitors, and even forbidden to see her two young children, ages one and three years old. Lin may be a fraudster, however, she is being treated like a political prisoner.