A retired colonel surnamed Lan (藍) from Pingtung County is to be charged with offenses against state security, the Kaohsiung District Prosecutors’ Office said on Wednesday.
This is just one in a series of similar cases over the past few years of retired or active military personnel being implicated in spying for China.
Retired major general Hou Shih-cheng (侯石城) was in September last year found guilty of recruiting officials for a spy network, Major Wang Hung-ju (王鴻儒) and Major General Hsieh Chia-kang (謝嘉康) were in May last year both found guilty of providing information on US-made missile systems to China, and retired air force lieutenant colonel Liu Chi-ju (劉其儒) was found guilty of recruiting spies in a 2015 case in which several other retired and active personnel at the time were implicated.
The frequency with which such cases occur raises the question of whether there is any point in increasing the defense budget when the nation’s military is constantly being compromised from within. The government should root out those who lack the resolve or commitment to defend the nation from its enemies, but in the interim it is imperative that active and retired military and government officials be prohibited from traveling to China.
Those with previous or current access to confidential information pose an obvious risk in that they might sell secrets to China, but there is also a hidden risk in allowing public servants and officials — people in influential positions — to interact with the nation’s enemy.
Taiwan is increasingly vying with China to win the hearts and minds of Taiwan’s youth and talented people. Beijing on Feb. 27 announced a series of economic incentives for Taiwanese, which former vice president Annette Lu (呂秀蓮) described as “a soft unification strategy more powerful than military means.”
China hopes to change the way Taiwanese think about their identity, and wants to convince them to support the “one China” policy, she said.
Restricting the travel of certain segments of the population is not uncommon in other countries. In China, travel by active as well as retired members of the country’s politburo is highly restricted. Retired members generally do not travel overseas and current members are permitted to travel only once per year on three to five-day work-related trips, Isaac Fish reported in Foreign Policy on Dec. 24, 2015, citing a 1989 regulation.
The number of Russian citizens who are barred from traveling overseas is rising and the bans primarily apply to those who have worked in the country’s security network, former Russian lawmaker Vladimir Ryzhkov said in a March 26, 2014, opinion piece in English-language newspaper the Moscow Times.
Even the US places restrictions on travel, with Cuba being the most glaring example. US citizens were prohibited from visiting the country from 1963 to 2015, when former US president Barack Obama restored diplomatic relations with that country. US President Donald Trump reintroduced some restrictions last year, largely making it necessary for US citizens visiting Cuba to join tour groups on which their itineraries and accommodations are pre-arranged.
US officials with security clearances are permitted to travel, but various reporting requirements are in place for different countries, as per Security Executive Agent Directive 3 issued by the US Office of the Director of National Intelligence in June 2016.
It is in the interest of national security to prohibit Taiwanese who have worked as public servants or government officials, and who in the process of accepting their employment swore to work for the benefit of the nation and its citizens, from traveling to China or having contact with Chinese government officials.
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