Taiwan: Lawmakers Call for Probe into Chinese Karaoke Machine ‘Propaganda Songs’

Lifestyle-culture-entertainment-HongKong, by Aidan JonesSingers performs at a karaoke lounge in Hong Kong on February 11, 2011. It's been a way to unwind and get a deal done in Asia for over 40 years; crooning like Sinatra, camping it up like Abba or rocking like Elvis, often to a room full …
MIKE CLARKE/AFP via Getty

A Taiwanese lawmaker has called for an official probe into the sale of Chinese-made karaoke machines sold in Taiwan that play Chinese “propaganda songs,” the Taipei Times reported on Tuesday.

Legislator Chen Ting-fei said on Monday “she was approached by a person who had discovered Chinese patriotic songs such as My Motherland — which is commonly referred to as China’s ‘second national anthem’ — in Chinese-made karaoke devices sold in Taiwan,” according to the newspaper.

“The machines are popular, as they can connect to the Internet, providing access to thousands of songs,” Chen, a member of Taiwan’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party, said.

The Chinese-made devices often contain songs sung by members of China’s military, or by members of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), a Taiwanese retailer told the Taipei Times. The songs may be accompanied by music videos depicting China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) soldiers and military weapons.

“Most of these devices come equipped with off-the-shelf boxes that connect to servers in China, which is where they get their content,” Chen explained, adding that the CCP could theoretically stream anything it wants through the machines.

Beijing plants “pro-unification” songs on the karaoke machines as part of its “united front” tactics, Chen said. She referred to China’s official stance toward Taiwan, which it regards as a renegade territory. Taiwan is a sovereign state with its own constitution, government, and military. Despite this, the CCP has vowed to take the island, located off China’s southeastern coast, by force, if necessary.

Chen said on January 18 that she had arranged a meeting with members of Taiwan’s National Communications Commission and the Taiwanese Ministry of Economic Affairs for the end of the month to further discuss the karaoke machine matter.

“[Taiwan’s] Mainland Affairs Council also expressed concern over the content on the Chinese-made karaoke machines, saying that they breached the rights of Taiwanese artists, whose work is often used on the devices without their permission,” the Taipei Times noted on Monday. “The council said it had already filed a lawsuit against Taiwanese companies selling the devices in August last year, and had also met with the commission and the ministry to discuss the issue.”

Seven brands sell Chinese-made karaoke machines in Taiwan. Domestic Taiwanese companies selling karaoke devices on the island must obtain copyright permission for the songs they wish to play. Home units typically require up to 20,000 copyright requests, while commercial units often call for up to 30,000.

“The Chinese Internet-connected devices break Taiwan’s copyright laws, which is why they can claim to have more than 700,000 songs on them, and why companies selling or publicly using them often face lawsuits,” a Taiwanese karaoke machine retailer told the Taipei Times.

U.S. Customs officials in the state of Virginia last month seized nearly 5,000 fake karaoke machines from China as they headed to consumers who purchased the devices through Amazon. “Federal officials said the fake machines were seized with the help of online retailers who suspected they were counterfeit,” the Associated Press reported on December 16.

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