Sun, Dec 08, 2019 - Page 6 News List

EDITORIAL: Collaboration key to fight spying

Australian authorities on Monday launched a high-level intelligence task force amid revelations of an increase in Chinese spying activity in the nation.

Self-confessed Chinese spy William Wang Liqiang (王立強) has made claims about his own involvement in spy operations, while Duncan Lewis, the recently retired head of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation, said that China is aiming to take control of the Australian parliament.

Wang’s claims have implications for Taiwan and resulted in Hong Kong executives — China Innovation Investment Ltd executive director Xiang Xin (向心) and his wife, acting director Kung Ching (龔青) — being detained because of his allegations that they were involved in political influence campaigns.

Chinese espionage is of growing concern worldwide. Bloomberg last week reported that Belgium has become a “den of spies” where “the number of [Chinese] operatives is at least as high as during the Cold War, and Brussels is their ‘chessboard.’”

Brussels was a natural focus for China due to the number of international organizations it hosts, such as NATO and the EU, the report said.

The type of activity is also changing, with Beijing now targeting people in business and academia to glean trade and research secrets, it said.

Chinese authorities research people of interest and then make casual contact through sites such as LinkedIn, it said, citing the case of former CIA officer Kevin Mallory. The new approach and the fact that many targets are not members of the Chinese community mean that authorities need to be even more vigilant.

Due to its unique relationship with China and shared language, Taiwan is perhaps the nation most knowledgeable regarding Chinese spies and how to counter them. Chinese interference in campaigns for next month’s elections is common knowledge and speaks to the urgency with which spy activity must be handled. Cooperation with like-minded nations would be mutually beneficial.

Early last month, Taiwan held its two-yearly cybersecurity drills. For the first time, it worked with participants from 10 nations, including the US — which organized the event alongside the Department of Cyber Security via the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT).

AIT Director Brent Christensen said at the time that the institute’s participation was aimed at sending a message to the world that “Taiwan is not alone on cyber. The United States stands with you, side by side, as a friend and partner.”

The US clearly recognizes the shared interest in combating cyberespionage and understands the value in working with Taiwan. Collaborating to share information on other forms of espionage should be the next step.

Taiwanese authorities have already expressed an interest in collaboration. On Saturday last week, an official from the Taipei District Prosecutors’ Office said that it had written to Australian agencies requesting more information to help it act on Wang’s claims, particularly information that would help it in its investigation into Xiang’s and Kung’s activities.

An international network that would help democratic countries share information would enable authorities to act quickly. This would be especially helpful for Taiwan, which is unable to join Interpol due to obstruction from Beijing.

Obviously China would object to such a network, but it would have no basis for doing so if Taiwan were not named as a country by the network’s charter and if China were not named as a target.

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