Senior adviser to President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) Richard Lee (李家同) yesterday said the nation should consider using only Taiwanese communications systems and software in the government sector for the sake of national security.
“I sincerely hope that the government promotes the purchase of Taiwanese products in view of national security concerns,” Lee said. “I hope the government will devise a plan to develop our own communications systems and software to be used at the very least at the Ministry of National Defense, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Executive Yuan and the Presidential Office. I say we can definitely do it. The only problem is whether the government has the resolution as well as the ambition to do so.”
One of the nation’s most outspoken critics on government policy, Lee published his opinions in a letter to the editor of the Chinese-language United Daily News yesterday. In his letter, Lee cited a recent report by the US House of Representatives Intelligence Committee recommending that the US avoid using telecommunications equipment manufactured by China’s Huawei Technologies (華為技術) and ZTE Inc (中興通訊) because their equipment could be used to spy on the US, adding that the committee came to that conclusion after a year-long investigation.
Lee added that the Canadian government had issued a similar statement without mentioning any specific firms, but which emphasized that it is building a high-security telecoms system to avoid exposure to foreign firms that pose a threat to national security.
“If the government uses telecommunications equipment made by other countries, we are not sure if these other countries could use the opportunity to spy on us,” he said.
Lee said most of the communications software used in Taiwan is purchased from other countries and not all are exclusively within the government’s control.
The government makes extensive use of operating systems from a certain US firm and that firm has told Taipei that it is connected to its telecommunications network, he said.
Lee said that the fact the public is constantly being informed that the system needs to be updated shows that the company knows every move the government is making.
“What I am concerned about is that the government appears to have no sense of urgency over this issue and even specified that some official documents must be made public through a certain operating system that would make it harder for us to have control over our own government system,” he added.
Lee said that the government could at least try using Taiwanese products in the military, so that telecommunications system operators could have chance to develop them further.
“Our government does not seem to realize that we have already developed some of the finest telecommunications systems and software,” he said. “We should pay attention to our own high-tech products.”