The US cut a Taiwanese minister from a video feed after she displayed a map showing her country as separate from China

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  • A Taiwanese minister showed a map with Taiwan and China in different colors at a democracy summit.

  • Several minutes later, when she spoke again, video feed of her presentation had been cut.

  • Sources told Reuters it was deliberate. The State Department said it was a technical error.

A Taiwanese minister was cut from a video feed of President Joe Biden's democracy summit minutes after she presented a map showing her country as separate from China.

The State Department blamed a technical error, though Reuters reported, citing sources familiar with the matter, that it was deliberate.

China insists that Taiwan is part of the country, whereas Taiwan, which has been self-governing for decades, is fiercely opposed to the idea.

Speaking by video link as part of the Summit for Democracy on Friday, Taiwan's digital minister, Audrey Tang, presented a map showing countries ranked by civil rights as part of a "digital authoritarianism" discussion.

The map, created by the nonprofit Civicus, which appeared on screen for about a minute, showed Taiwan marked in green, meaning it was "open," whereas China was marked in red, meaning "closed."

When the moderator returned to Tang about 20 minutes later, she was heard only on audio, with a visual placeholder reading "Minister Audrey Tang, Taiwan."

Shortly after, a disclaimer appeared on the video feed, saying: "Any opinions expressed by individuals on this panel are those of the individual, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the United States government."

Watch her presentation of the map around the four-hour, 24-minute mark, and the moment in which only her audio appears around the four-hour, 45-minute mark:

Reuters reported, citing a source familiar with the matter, that US officials were spooked by the map and worried that it appeared to show Taiwan as separate from China.

As a result, White House officials then told the summit's producers to make Tang's feed audio-only, Reuters reported.

"They choked," the source told Reuters, referring to the White House.

"It was clearly policy concerns," another source told Reuters. "This was completely an internal overreaction."

But US officials denied that the feed was cut deliberately. The White House and State Department did not immediately respond to Insider's request for comment.

The State Department told Reuters it was "an honest mistake" caused by "confusion" over screen-sharing. The White House National Security Council also told the outlet it was caused by confusion.

But according to Reuters, the council had sent multiple emails to the State Department over the issue and the White House later complained to Taiwanese officials. Taiwan responded by saying it was angered that Tang's video was cut, Reuters reported.

But Tang told Reuters: "No, I do not believe that this has anything to do with the CIVICUS map in my slides, or U.S. allies in Asia for that matter."

President Joe Biden seen the virtual Summit for Democracy in Washington, DC, on December 10, 2021.
President Joe Biden seen the virtual Summit for Democracy in Washington, DC, on Friday.REUTERS/Leah Millis

In recent weeks, the Biden administration has tried to avoid committing to whether it supports the notion that Taiwan is independent of China, so as to not upset Beijing. China's aggressive posturing toward Taiwan, meanwhile, has increased in recent months.

In October, Biden appeared to suggest that the US would defend Taiwan from an attack by China, prompting the White House to clarify hours later that the US policy of "strategic ambiguity" had not changed.

And in November, Biden hinted at, then appeared to retract, support for Taiwanese independence, prompting Chinese President Xi Jinping to tell Biden during their meeting that he was "playing with fire."

Later that month, a spokesperson for the Chinese government said that Biden's inviting Taiwan to his democracy summit was a "mistake."

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