Sun, Aug 24, 2014 - Page 8 News List

The Liberty Times Editorial: Friends, foes and national security

On Wednesday, Presidential Office spokeswoman Ma Wei-kuo (馬瑋國) said that President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) was informed about and fully supported the decision by Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) Minister Wang Yu-chi (王郁琦) to remove deputy minister Chang Hsien-yao (張顯耀) and have him investigated.

Chang’s case should be judged based on the evidence, and it seems inappropriate for the outside world to interfere.

However, since the government has defined this as a national security case, further discussion is required regarding issues such as what national security means, what the distinction is between national security and national interests, and, from the vantage point of the state, whether China is a friend or an enemy. If Ma’s answer is that China is both a friend and an enemy, what does he base that on, and who is making this judgement?

These are all fundamental questions, and they are key premises for state-to-state interaction. Even if Ma pretends not to hear such questions, he is unable to avoid them.

Chang’s case was at first portrayed as “treason” by the government and, as such, it is not just a personal case, as it may become a test case formally and legally, or informally and conventionally. That being so, the question is has it affected the policy direction of the Ma administration over the past six years and more?

The contemporary definition of national security has surpassed the traditional military definition. From economics, politics, diplomacy, society and homeland to other domains, all the internal and external factors that are crucial to a country’s survival and development fall under national security. Such national security affairs are all related to national interests, especially a country’s core interests. National security, then, ranks above national interests.

From a legal perspective, Taiwan has the National Security Act (國家安全法), although only 10 articles remain after the act was amended last year, and a mere three items involve penalties.

Article 4 states that police or coast guard agencies are to carry out inspections on people, goods and vehicles in accordance with their authority when necessary.

More importantly, Article 2-1 states that people may not disclose “official secrets” to foreign countries or to China, and that leaking confidential information is a criminal offense.

As is clearly stated in the act, people shall not spy or collect, deliver or transmit official secrets to foreign countries or China — including their administrative, military, party and other public agencies, and any non-governmental organizations established, designated or entrusted by them. Such secrets refer to government documents, publications, information and property that are to be kept confidential. Nor are they to help to develop foreign or Chinese agencies.

Article 5-1 also states that a person who leaks public secrets is to be sentenced to imprisonment of no more than five years, detention or a fine of no more than NT$1 million (US$33,333). Even if an attempt to pass on information is unsuccessful, the person who tries to do so still has to be punished.

How do we define what a public secret is? Are such secrets defined by having the stamp “Confidential” affixed on government documents or can they be defined by someone authorized by the government? It is clear that what the public views as national security is not fully reflected in the law.

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