Fri, May 08, 2009 - Page 8 News List

Widening the door for PRC spying

By J. Michael Cole 寇謐將

What makes this proposed investment doubly troubling is China Mobile’s chairman, Wang Jianzhou (王建宙), who during the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, last year, raised eyebrows after revealing with disquieting nonchalance the extent of the personal data his company had on Chinese subscribers as well as the willingness of his company to provide personal subscriber information to Chinese authorities on request. Although Wang has since 1999 worked in the private sector, his ties to the Chinese government include positions as technology director in the Zhe­jiang government, director-general of the posts and telecommunications bureau in Hangzhou, director-general of the planning and construction department at the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications and director-general of the general planning department at the Ministry of Information Industry.

There is no doubt, therefore, that once China Mobile — and through it, Chinese authorities — wedges its foot in the door of the Taiwanese telecommunications sector, it would exploit it to collect information in as indiscriminate a fashion as it has against Chinese citizens.

This is a case that goes far beyond the maximum percentage of shares Chinese investors should be allowed to hold in a Taiwanese company. When it comes to sensitive sectors that involve personal information, Taipei should ensure that the firms involved remain out of bounds of Chinese investors, who despite their country’s move toward capitalism, remain very much beholden to the Chinese Communist Party through investment and political control. China Mobile’s bid for a 12 percent stake in Far EasTone falls in this category.

J. Michael Cole is a writer based in Taipei and a former analyst with the Canadian Security Intelligence Service.

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