Investigators in central Taiwan have uncovered an unusual case of alleged Chinese industrial espionage that targeted the agricultural sector after arresting four Chinese men working illegally on tea farms in Nantou County. The case is said to be the first one in which social media were used to gather information about the nation’s tea industry.
Officials at the Nantou County Investigation Bureau confirmed yesterday that they arrested four Chinese men, who were hired as “tea pickers” to harvest tea by hand on mountain farms around Nantou’s Jhushan Township (竹山).
The men are suspected of recording their farm work and tea processing techniques with smartphone cameras.
Photo: Copy by Chen Feng-lee, Taipei Times
The head of the group, surnamed Zhou (鄒), allegedly sent the photographs and information via social messaging app Line to a tea company in China’s Fujian Province which had hired him as a spy.
When questioned by investigators, Zhou allegedly admitted that he was hired by the Fujian tea company, which had contacts to place Chinese workers on contract jobs at Nantou’s tea farms.
“I was told to gather top-grade tea samples, learn the tea processing technique and get to know some tea farmers. This information, which they will use for their future tea processing and trading business, was recorded and sent to China using Line,” Zhou reportedly said.
Authorities said photographs were found on Zhou’s phone of tea farms in the mountainous tea-producing regions of central Taiwan, including Alishan (阿里山), Dayu Mountain (大禹嶺), Lugu (鹿谷) and Shanling Creek (杉林溪).
Officials said three of the four men came to Taiwan after applying for visas to visit relatives and were working illegally.
“It may not be so simple. Maybe they had political aims and also undertook other spying activities,” one of the investigators said.
He referred to Zhang (張), one of the four arrested, whose case hinted at a possible Chinese espionage penetration plan going back nearly two decades.
According to the investigator, Zhang, 51, divorced his Chinese wife surnamed Chen (陳) 17 years ago, which enabled her to marry an elderly retired soldier in Taiwan.
The retired soldier died 10 years ago, after which Chen inherited his monthly pension of NT$40,000 (US$1,316). Chen then returned to China to remarry Zhang, her original husband.
This enabled Zhang to come to Taiwan as her spouse and through Chen become eligible to work and live in Taiwan.
Officials suspect Zhang is the key liaison person in the operation, specializing in contacting and hiring Chinese men to work on tea farms in Taiwan.
HONG KONG SECURITY: The president blasted regulations requiring Taiwanese agents or political organizations to provide information on their Hong Kong-related activities President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) yesterday warned of countermeasures should controversial Chinese national security legislation imposed on Hong Kong undermine or harm Taiwanese interests. Article 43 of the legislation empowers the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region to serve written notices to Taiwanese political organizations or individual agents to furnish information on their Hong Kong-related activities, including their personal particulars, finances, assets, expenditure and capital in the territory. Failure to comply or providing false or incomplete information can result in a fine of HK$100,000 (US$12,903) or imprisonment of six months or two years respectively. Tsai said that Taiwan would keep a close watch on how
PROBE LAUNCHED: An officer who served as a supervisor in the drill died in an apparent suicide after the accident, which was caused by unexpected waves Two marines who were on Friday injured in a military exercise in the waters off Kaohsiung passed away yesterday, Navy Command said. The marines — surnamed Tsai (蔡), 26, and a sergeant surnamed Chen (陳), 36 — were in a seven-member Marine Corps team that encountered rough seas during a simulated response to enemy forces landing on Taiwan. Their rubber craft overturned in waters off Taoziyuan (桃子園) beach in Zuoying District (左營), injuring four of the marines. They were rushed to hospital, where three of them — Tsai, Chen and a 34-year-old sergeant — were taken to an intensive care unit
MORAL COURAGE: The Ministry of Foreign Affairs urged the global community to face China’s intention to subdue Taiwan and reject such irrational requests The Ministry of Foreign Affairs yesterday strongly condemned the Chinese government for meddling with US officials’ interactions with Taiwan after FBI Director Christopher Wray revealed China’s efforts to discourage US officials from visiting Taiwan. The greatest long-term threat to the US’ information security and intellectual property, as well as its economic vitality, is China’s counterintelligence and economic espionage operations, Wray told a video event at the Hudson Institute in Washington. Beijing is engaged in a highly sophisticated and maligning foreign influence campaign, with methods that include bribery, blackmail and covert deals, he said. Giving an example, Wray said that when a US official
‘SIGNAL TO ALLIES’: The US Navy’s exercises are not in response to those carried out by China, the commander of the strike group led by the USS ‘Ronald Reagan’ said Two US aircraft carriers were yesterday conducting exercises in the disputed South China Sea, the US Navy said as China also carried out military drills that have been criticized by the US Department of Defense and neighboring states. China and the US have accused each other of stoking tension in the waterway at a time of strained relations over everything from COVID-19 to trade to Hong Kong. The USS Nimitz and USS Ronald Reagan were carrying out operations and exercises in the South China Sea “to support a free and open Indo-Pacific,” the navy said in a statement. It did not say exactly