Thu, Jul 22, 2004 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: Chinese tourists threaten security

The shocking news on Tuesday that a group of 17 Chinese tourists have gone missing serves as a blow to those who are addicted to the opening of direct links between Taiwan and China.

The case is the first of its kind since Taiwan opened its doors to Chinese tourists about two years ago. According to one of the group's members, who was arrested by Taoyuan police yesterday, he came to Taiwan simply to find a job. As nobody picked them up when they arrived at the CKS International Airport on July 13, they left by taxi. Police are still looking for the 16 other people who went missing.

Signs show that this could have been a well-planned trip, and these tourists may have some accomplices in Taiwan, with whom they may be staying. According to one of the taxi drivers who transported the tourists, he was directed to "a certain location" by a woman with a "mainland" accent.

Perhaps the man is simply an economic refugee, and before we have any evidence, we will not make assumptions and accuse the missing tourists of having any political or intelligence missions. Still, the massive number of illegal immigrants from China in Taiwan and the sophisticated network they have built are shocking enough.

According to the Tourism Bureau's official statistics, a total of 37 Chinese tourists have gone missing after entering the nation legally this year. The Immigration Office of the National Police Agency pointed out on Tuesday that between November 1988 and June 30 this year, a total of 14,803 Chinese citizens went missing after they entered Taiwan legally. Of these, 4,806 have been found but are still in Taiwan, while another 3,638 are still unaccounted for.

These figures naturally do not include illegal immigrants who enter Taiwan by sea. As these people do not pass through any government channels, their number cannot be estimated. In addition, based on Ministry of the Interior statistics quoted by Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council, of the Chinese women entering Taiwan to marry, five out of six are entering into marriages of convenience.

Such figures are shocking, for they expose a loophole in our public order and national security. At a time when China still looks on Taiwan with enmity, these people -- who have entered Taiwan legally but who now cannot be traced -- are ticking bombs embedded in our society, and are a threat to national security.

The pan-blues, now out of office, have repeatedly called for the opening of the three direct links as an important part of their bid to win votes. Some Taiwanese businesses have made use of their votes to pressure the Chen administration to establish the three links, the reason being that this will reduce transport costs between Taiwan and China. It is also an expression of their hope for a greater China economic sphere. But these purely economic motives, if looked at in the light of Taiwan's social order and national security concerns, can be seen as the short-sighted policies they are.

Don't forget, the three links work both ways. The moment we open the doors to China -- even if we ignore obvious concerns about political and military infiltration and the placement of spies -- the number of people who will "jump ship" and remain in Taiwan working illegally, is sufficient to cause insoluble social problems. If we just want to make money and do not bother to defend our social order or national security, then we might as well just let Chinese workers come and run the place.

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