A Taiwanese news channel Chinese Television System (CTS) accidentally reported on Wednesday that the Chinese military had invaded the island, setting off what it called a “public panic” before the error was resolved.
According to Taiwan News, screenshots from the Wednesday CTS broadcast showed a news chyron that read “Have we begun war with China?” and a bottom crawl news ticker reports that read “New Taipei City hit by Chinese missile, Port of Taipei warship explodes, facilities, vessels damaged,” “war on the brink of erupting,” “China makes frequent moves to prepare for war, President issues emergency decree,” and “Special agent suspected of setting fire to Banqiao Station and planting explosives.”
Taiwan governs itself as an independent nation, but the People’s Republic of China considers the island a part of its territory. China has repeatedly referred to reunification with Taiwan, including by means of military force. As such, reports of Chinese attacks damaging Taiwanese warships and striking the island’s capital city raised alarm among viewers of the news broadcast.
The reported Chinese attacks also came amid Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine. International observers of the Russian invasion of Ukraine have warned China may take a similar approach against Taiwan. A Chinese professor recently said Russian actions in Ukraine serve as a model for how China could take Taiwan and because China’s economy is “ten times larger than Russia’s,” invading Taiwan would be comparatively easy.
According to Taiwan News, social media commentators quickly noted the discrepancy between the reported attacks and the comparatively peaceful reality around the country. Social media users began to comment that the reports were either “ridiculous mistake,” a “malicious prank,” or written by “a staff member high on drugs.”
One social media user even accused CTS of stoking “social disorder” and called for the news station to be fined by Taiwan’s National Communications Commission.
CTS issued a correction notice for the erroneous broadcast and publicly apologized for the error. The news station said it had previously received notes from the New Taipei City Fire Department for a disaster response drill. The news station said it had been commissioned by the New Taipei City Government to produce a news broadcast for the disaster drill but, due to a staff error, the station accidentally broadcast the disaster response drill as actual news content.
“CTS solemnly apologizes for the serious oversight that has caused public panic and unnecessary issues for relevant authorities,” CTS said, according to Taiwan News. “Immediately, aside from the anchor’s urgent clarification and apology, CTS also clarified and apologized on each of its channels via news crawls.”
CTS said it “will conduct an urgent self-discipline committee meeting to review the major oversight and issue severe punishment against staff members involved.”
“As a member of the Taiwan Broadcasting System, CTS does not take this type of mistake lightly and apologizes once again to the public,” the news station said.
In addition to the news station’s apology, Taiwan’s Ministry of Culture also apologized for the error.
According to the Guardian, Taiwanese Defense Minister Chiu Kuo-cheng said he had been “surprised to see the news” and said the Taiwanese military worked to quickly to verify and dispel the false attack report. He said if the Taiwanese military received any other controversial intelligence, it would work quickly to investigate and confirm its accuracy.