The revelation this week that Jacqueline Liu (劉姍姍), the former head of the nation’s representative office in Kansas City, Missouri, hired a Chinese national as a housekeeper late last year after her second Philippine maid had fled is as sad as it is worrying. What it is not, though, is surprising, given how lax this administration has become on national security.
As if the alleged mistreatment of two housemaids, which sullied the nation’s image abroad, were not enough, Liu also broke Ministry of Foreign Affairs regulations by hiring Xie Dengfeng (謝登鳳), a Chinese national, and concealing Xie’s identity from the ministry. Such actions could have endangered national security.
In her defense, the embattled Liu says she was unaware of the ministry regulations on hiring Chinese nationals. It is hard to imagine which possibility is worse — that she is lying, or that she was indeed unaware of the rules, which raises serious questions about internal security and counterintelligence at the ministry.
As any Taiwanese official should know, the Chinese intelligence apparatus is monitoring Taiwanese diplomatic missions abroad, and there is no reason to believe that the office in Kansas was any different. It can be assumed that Chinese agents were aware of the crisis that was developing at Liu’s residence, which would have provided a perfect opportunity to direct a source like Xie at her and task her with collecting intelligence.
An investigation is needed to determine whether this was the case, but in the past decades, there have been dozens of instances of Chinese espionage in the US involving defense officials, government agencies, high-tech firms and universities.
The mere possibility that Liu could be the target of such an operation should have been enough for her to avoid doing what she did. Heads must roll over this lapse, and possibly not just Liu’s.
For let us not kid ourselves: However much the administration of President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) likes to say that cross-strait relations have improved, and despite the “love and peace” theme and the cuddly panda used as a backdrop at a recent cross-strait conference in Greater Kaohsiung, Beijing remains very much on a war footing. Beyond missiles, destroyers and aircraft, this also means aggressive intelligence collection.
Unless the Ma administration starts taking counterintelligence seriously by acknowledging the nature of the threat, allocates sufficient resources to meet the challenge and provides appropriate training on international security to all government employees, China will continue to penetrate Taiwanese security wherever it wants. Opportunities for China to conduct espionage against Taiwan have increased dramatically amid growing exchanges between the two sides.
Failing to make the appropriate changes signals that Taiwan has all but given up on resisting aggression.
The analogies between Austria on the eve of World War II and Taiwan today, with Ma playing the role of former Austrian chancellor Kurt Schuschnigg, are disturbing. While Ma and Schuschnigg were undoubtedly well-intentioned, Nazi Germany then, like Beijing now, used a “policy of peaceful penetration” that heightened pressure on independence movements while isolating their targets internationally.
The first point of the Nazi program, we must remember, demanded “the merger of all Germans ... in a Greater Germany,” with Adolf Hitler adding in his hate-filled Mein Kampf: “One blood demands one Reich” — language ominously familiar to Taiwanese.