Tue, Apr 10, 2018 - Page 8 News List

Allies need Taiwan to have tighter spy laws

By Yao Chung-yuan 姚中原

The Legislative Yuan’s Internal Administration Committee is to review a draft additional clause to Article 5 of the National Security Act (國家安全法), which says that any state employee, namely military personnel, public-school teachers or public servants, whether currently employed or retired, who has been convicted of espionage would not only forfeit their monthly pension, but would also have to return any pension payments leading up to the time that the crime was committed.

The draft amendment is certainly a step in the right direction, for it would not only have a preventive effect on treasonous activities, but would also facilitate US military sales to Taiwan.

People keep selling out the nation because the punishments meted out for espionage activities in Taiwan are not severe enough, and the laws are far too lenient.

A case in point is the conviction of two people for their involvement in developing the most extensive spy ring that Taiwan has known. Former Chinese People’s Liberation Army intelligence officer Zhen Xiaojiang (鎮小江) was in 2015 sentenced to a mere four years in jail by the Supreme Court for masterminding the ring, while retired Taiwanese major-general Hsu Nai-chuan (許乃權) was sentenced to only two years and 10 months.

Upon his release at the end of his sentence last year, Hsu was still eligible for a pension worth 70 percent of his salary, more than NT$70,000 a month.

Over the past few years, to consolidate the air force’s military capability, the Ministry of National Defense, in addition to upgrading Indigenous Defense Fighters and F-16 warplanes, has been looking into ways to continue purchasing more advanced fighters, such as the Lockheed Martin F-35B, from the US.

The ministry hopes to use the fighter — with its short take-off and landing, stealth, and vertical take-off and landing capabilities — as a point of reference for developing Taiwan’s next generation of fighters.

However, due to the frequency of espionage cases in Taiwan, the US has made it well-known, on more than one occasion, that it is concerned the Taiwanese government cannot protect confidential information about military equipment that the US might sell to Taiwan. These concerns make it all the more difficult for the nation to secure the purchase of high-tech military weapons from the US.

Peter Mattis, a US expert on China’s intelligence services, wrote of the “dark decade” of the past 10 years of Chinese espionage activities in Taiwan in a 2016 article, recommending that President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) and the government conduct risk-management assessments and make improvements to security planning.

Otherwise, it would be difficult for Taiwan to have close cooperative ties with its closest security partners, he wrote.

The legislature’s willingness to amend the law to address the failings and loopholes in the anti-espionage laws is something that the public as a whole should support.

Yao Chung-yuan is a former deputy director of the Ministry of National Defense’s Strategic Planning Division.

Translated by Paul Cooper

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