The Criminal Investigation Bureau (CIB) yesterday conducted raids on five locations in Taipei and New Taipei City, detaining 10 alleged members of an operation that took advantage of a legal loophole to enable more than 10,000 “tourists” to enter Taiwan over the past three years, including Chinese government officials and spies.
Prosecutors said that it was the most serious breach of national security in the past several years.
Allegedly running the operation was Hung Ching-lin (洪慶淋), a retired journalist and former office director of the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) caucus at the then-Taipei County Council, prosecutors said, adding that the other suspects included Hung’s wife and daughter, as well as the owners and managers of New Taipei City-based travel agencies.
Photo: Huang Chieh, Taipei Times
One bureau investigator said that preliminary findings portend severe repercussions for national security, as the door was opened wide for high-level Chinese Communist Party (CCP) officials, including some from the United Front Work Department, and intelligence operatives who would otherwise be barred from visiting.
After their statements were taken, the suspects were transferred to the Taipei District Prosecutors’ Office for questioning.
They face charges of illegally profiting by aiding Chinese citizens to gain illegal entry into the nation and related offenses under the Act Governing Relations Between the People of the Taiwan Area and the Mainland Area (台灣地區與大陸地區人民關係條例), prosecutors said.
Hung registered more than 100 nonprofit organizations and shell companies with the New Taipei City Government, including the New Taipei City Water Resources Economic Development Association and the New Taipei City Industry Exchange Association, which he used to organize purportedly short-term cross-strait exchange programs for people in various professions, they said.
The loophole allowed Chinese to bypass background checks of people associated with the Chinese government, enabling them to visit Taiwan on organized “package tours,” they added.
Hung and his family colluded with about 20 travel agencies, generating revenue estimated at more than NT$10 million (US$327,815) from the collection of NT$1,000 to NT$2,000 “service fees” per Chinese “tourist,” prosecutors said.
Documents and data seized in the raids indicated that from early 2017 to June, Hung’s operation helped at least 5,000 and likely more than 10,000 Chinese enter Taiwan with documents presented to the National Immigration Agency, including invitations to fake events, exchange program proposals and bogus tour agendas, they said.
Chinese spies might have remained in Taiwan after their supposed “tours,” they added.
A preliminary assessment found that many of those Chinese would not have been permitted to visit Taiwan if proper background checks were conducted by national security authorities, bureau officials said.
Among the CCP officials and suspected operatives of Chinese intelligence agencies were Li Jiexian (李接賢) and Nien Peiguang (念培光), high-ranking United Front Work Department officials, they said.
Hung left the Chinese-language China Times to take up the office director position in the late 2000s, when he reportedly began registering the organizations.
SURPRISE GUEST: Media reports identified the visitor as Admiral Michael Studeman, director of the J2, which oversees intelligence at the US military’s Indo-Pacific Command A two-star US Navy admiral overseeing US military intelligence in the Asia-Pacific region has made an unannounced visit to Taiwan, two sources told Reuters on Sunday. The sources, who include a Taiwanese official familiar with the situation, said the official was Rear Admiral Michael Studeman. They were speaking on condition of anonymity. After initially saying on Sunday night that it had no comment about the report, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it welcomed the visit of an “unidentified US official,” but declined to give more details because the trip “has not been made public.” Presidential Office spokesman Xavier Chang (張惇涵) yesterday
AUTUMN STRUGGLE: The KMT and TPP set up stages on the rally’s sidelines, while Want Want boss Tsai Eng-meng said the DPP was curtailing freedom of speech Tens of thousands of people in Taipei yesterday took part in the “Autumn Struggle” (秋鬥) — an annual protest march by labor groups — but with this year’s focus on rejecting the government’s plan to allow imports of US pork containing ractopamine residue. “Against poisonous pork, against double standards, against a party-state,” the protesters, mostly wearing black, chanted in front of the rally’s main stage on Ketagalan Boulevard at about noon, before a parade set off at 2pm. Autumn Struggle spokesperson Lee Chien-cheng (李建誠) said this year’s march was divided into three teams, with the first team urging food safety and labor
DEFENSE: The construction of indigenous submarines will be a testament to the nation’s commitment to safeguard its sovereignty, President Tsai Ing-wen said President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) yesterday presided over a ceremony to mark the start of construction of the nation’s first indigenous submarine at state-run shipbuilder CSBC Corp’s (台灣國際造船) shipyard in Kaohsiung. “This submarine is an important part of allowing our navy to develop asymmetric warfare and to intimidate and block enemy ships from surrounding Taiwan’s main island,” Tsai said. “With the construction of the submarine to its future commission, we will certainly let the world know our persistence in safeguarding our sovereignty.” Tsai has made boosting the nation’s indigenous defense capacity a central pillar of her defense policy. She recently relaunched the
ESPIONAGE CHARGE: A TAO spokesperson said that the rights of Shih Cheng-ping were ‘fully safeguarded’ during the hearing, which handed him four years in prison China sentenced Shih Cheng-ping (施正屏), a former National Taiwan Normal University (NTNU) professor, to four years in jail for espionage, officials said yesterday. The ruling came a month after Shih made a televised “confession” on state media. Shih, who is also a former chief economist for Chinese conglomerate Huaxia Group (華夏集團), was found guilty by a Chinese court on Tuesday, China’s Taiwan Affairs Office (TAO) told a news briefing. Shih — who vanished after traveling to China in August 2018 — was among Taiwanese who China Central Television (CCTV) last month showed confessing to spying. CCTV often broadcasts suspects admitting to crimes, even