A television news channel in Taiwan apologized after erroneously reporting on Wednesday that China had launched an invasion just outside the capital Taipei, triggering alarm online.
Taipei-based Chinese Television Systems, a TV network partially owned by the Taiwanese government, ran a ticker along the bottom of the screen at 7 a.m. local time on Wednesday saying that China had attacked several areas of New Taipei City.
"New Taipei City has been hit by a Chinese Communist guided missile. Ships in Taipei Port have exploded, damaging facilities," the graphic read. "Banqiao Station is reported to have been set on fire by explosives placed by special forces."
The station issued an on-air apology a few hours later, explaining that the chyron had been produced for a New Taipei City Fire Department disaster-prevention video and broadcast due to a production error. CTS later announced an investigation into what it called "gross negligence," pledging in a text message to severely punish any staff found to be responsible.
The Ministry of National Defense had asked municipal governments to include the Chinese invasion scenario in a video as part of an annual drill, New Taipei City Fire Department Commissioner Huang De-ching said.
"This is for the drill of national defense mobilization and disaster prevention," Huang said. "The Defense Department asked us to include the scenario of a China attack. So we have that scripted in the start of the video."
Russia's invasion of Ukraine has fed speculation about the risk that China may similarly make good on its long-held threat to take control of Taiwan by force, if peaceful means fail. While there are no signs of an imminent invasion, particularly as Chinese President Xi Jinping appears focused on a pivotal party leadership reshuffle later this year, Taipei has faced increasing military, diplomatic and economic pressure from Beijing in recent years.
Last year, the People's Liberation Army more than doubled its flights into Taiwan's air-defense identification zone to almost 1,000 sorties. China has also regularly blasted Taiwan for strengthening ties with the U.S.
Taiwan's broadcast regulator, the National Communications Commission, visited CTS offices Wednesday for an "administrative inspection," the Vice Chairman Wong Po-tsung said. The regulator has ordered the network to come up with measures to prevent it from repeating the mistake.
Seven members of the public had complained about the broadcast as of 2 p.m. Wednesday, Wong said. He added that his initial assessment is the network may have violated broadcast regulations intended to protect public order and "good social customs." The most recent network deemed to have broken the same regulations was fined $27,326, he said.