Wed, Jan 03, 2018 - Page 1 News List

Prosecutors: China paid Wang for propaganda

‘STAR FIRE T’:The party spokesman and others were allegedly paid to engage with key figures, and were to report to the TAO once the relationships progressed

By Huang Chien and Hsieh Chun-lin  /  Staff reporters

Taipei District Prosecutors’ Office Deputy Chief Prosecutor Chou Shih-yu at a news conference yesterday in Taipei provides information on an investigation into alleged funding from China of the pro-unification Web site Fire News.

Photo: Liu Hsin-de, Taipei Times

An investigation into New Party spokesman Wang Ping-chung (王炳忠) has found that China’s Taiwan Affairs Office (TAO) allegedly promised to pay Wang NT$15 million to NT$16 million (US$506,278 to US$540,030) annually for running the pro-unification propaganda Web site Fire News (燎原新聞網), the Taipei District Prosecutors’ Office said yesterday.

Wang cofounded Fire News, which Chinese student Zhou Hongxu (周泓旭) helped promote as a consultant, and allegedly used it as a platform to recruit members for an organization he was setting up for the Chinese government, the report said.

In a document titled Fire News 2015 Year-end Working Report, Zhou wrote that the Web site had received US$200,000 in funding from the TAO, of which Wang’s father “lost US$20,000.”

The TAO, the sole financier of the Web site, promised to pay Wang every year starting this year for the operation of the Web site, which is exempted from taxes in China and can be increased if necessary, the report said.

The payment is to be claimed by Wang in Beijing and is to strictly remain that way, Zhou wrote in the Fire News log.

“There will be risks, considering that the ‘green camp’ will become the ruling party next year [2016]. The source of the funds will be shown as donations from disciples of the Chunghua Cultural and Educational Foundation of the Gods (中華文教代天協會) where Wang’s father works,” an excerpt from the log showed.

Prosecutors said that Zhou was instructed by the TAO to recruit current and retired Taiwanese military officials through Wang — an operation codenamed the “Star Fire T Project” (星火T計劃) — and was to offer various financial rewards to Wang and others, depending on the value of the contacts they introduced.

The operation was aimed at infiltrating the military through obtaining confidential information from digital networks and databases, deepening existing contacts, holding military-related events and filing academic research reports, prosecutors said.

A reward of NT$3,000 was to be offered for each contact who follows Fire News’ Facebook page, as long as the member read and “liked” at least 70 percent of its posts.

For each member who interacted with the page’s content creators at least once every two weeks for a minimum of two months, NT$5,000 was to be offered.

Rewards of NT$10,000 were to be given for securing offline meetings with contacts, with the aim of developing closer relationships and building trust by having the contact share personal information and take photographs together.

For closer two-person exchanges in which the contact opened up about their feelings regarding politics and deeply personal information, a reward of NT$50,000 was to be given, prosecutors said.

Following these encounters, Zhou, Wang and others were to report to the TAO for further instructions.

Zhou also wrote that the Web site’s content is overseen by New Party youth wing executive Hou Han-ting (侯漢廷) and produced by about five writers.

The office yesterday issued a new indictment charging Zhou with violating the National Security Act (國家安全法) and forwarded the findings to the Taiwan High Court without suggesting an extension of Zhou’s prison term.

The move came two weeks after the office’s search and arrest of Wang, Hou and two other New Party members, who were taken to the Investigation Bureau for questioning as witnesses in the case.

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