Mon, Nov 04, 2013 - Page 8 News List

[ LETTERS ]

Erosion of privacy

Independence is vital for an individual to take responsibility over their own actions. However, if their mobile phones and Internet/e-mails are hacked, then how can they remain independent?

Independence is paramount to accountability for one’s actions. These are core values that any human rights activist, lawyer or democratic politician would support. Yet in Taiwan, surveillance of politicians’ telephone calls is widespread. The scandal surrounding Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) is evidence that the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) government does not value human rights. In England, the News of the World trial continues with accusations that the newspaper hacked the phone lines of politicians, royal family members and rival newspapers.

The leaked documents by Edward Snowden about the US National Security Agency’s (NSA) program of hacking is further evidence that this practice is being adopted by countries around the world.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel was subject to phone hacking. The Germans are annoyed but not surprised or even ready to corner US President Barack Obama. Why? Every country is spying on each other.

Phone hacking is deemed to be acceptable in counterterrorism laws. The term “national security” seems to be included with any terrorism investigation. Every government in the world now has a right to hack any phone line in the name of counterterrorism. Any individual can be targeted for a period of a few months with the argument of counterterrorism being the reason for being hacked.

Human rights lawyers are astounded that this can happen. They face a tough current working environment. Most governments in the world will not disclose sensitive information, regarding it as “classified.” How can a human rights lawyer have a chance of representing a client? The lawyer has to prove that the client is not a threat to national security, but the government does not have to disclose “classified” information in a civil court.

Any hacking performed by a government agency or newspaper is a breach of human rights. The personal freedom of an individual is compromised. Every citizen of the world deserves some amount of freedom. Taiwan is fortunately ahead of China in terms of human rights, but well short of England. So would Taiwan like to unify with China or keep the “status quo?”

Surely hacking cannot be allowed. It erodes individuality and accountability. An individual’s independence is lost.

I have had my phone line hacked. When I raised my suspicions my mobile number was suddenly terminated. My life was threatened and I had to flee Taiwan assisted by the British Trade and Cultural Office.

However, I am not a political activist. I was a teacher in Taipei. The ordinary citizens of Taiwan need to be careful. The KMT government hack the phone lines of innocent politicians. If they can get away with it, then who else in Taiwan is exempt? Individuality, independence and accountability are being lost.

Paul Gilford

Bracknell, England

Letting Taiwanese decide

I read with interest the article written by reporter Chris Wang on Taiwanese preferring independence over unification (“Majority favor cross-strait exchanges,” Nov. 1, page 3).

This subject has been discussed many, many times. As a foreigner who has taken an interest in what’s happening in Taiwan, I dare say that it should be left for the Taiwanese to decide for themselves what is best for them.

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