The Ministry of National Defense yesterday confirmed that three retired military officers had been arrested on suspicion of spying for China, in what legislators described as one of the nation’s worst cases of espionage.
The Ministry of National Defense said that Commander Chang Chih-hsin (張祉鑫), former director of the political warfare department of Naval Meteorological & Oceanographic Office (METOC), was indicted by military prosecutors on suspicion of working as an agent for the Chinese.
“Chang, who initiated contact with Chinese officials while still serving in the navy, was suspected of luring his former colleagues and making illegal gains,” the ministry said.
Ministry spokesman David Lo (羅紹和) confirmed two other former military officers had also been arrested in connection with the case.
The Chinese-language Apple Daily reported that Chang was arrested by military authorities at his home in Greater Kaohsiung last month as he was about to travel to China.
Because Chang had access to the submarine fleet’s nautical charts and marine environment data, the confidential information could have been leaked to China, the newspaper said, adding that Taiwan’s submarine fleet may have been compromised.
It quoted a retired naval general as saying METOC kept highly classified information, such as maps and charts of the meteorological and oceanographic battle environments.
Chang retired from the military in May and went to China in August.
The newspaper criticized the ministry for not barring Chang from going to China after he retired.
Lo did not say what kind of military information Chang had allegedly sold to China, but played down the possible damage to Taiwan’s security, saying “Chang had limited access to METOC’s sensitive information.”
According to a ministry statement, military prosecutors had begun investigating Chang even before he retired.
Naval authorities adopted anti-espionage measures as soon as they were tipped off about Chang’s plans and transferred the case to the Military Prosecutors’ Office for further investigation after acquiring the initial evidence, the statement said.
Several other retired military officers have been arrested on suspicion of espionage and the military has taken various damage control steps, Lo said.
The ministry also denied that any officer in active service is involved.
The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) legislative caucus told a press conference yesterday that the repeated espionage cases reflected President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) pro-China mentality, which has relaxed the military’s vigilance against Chinese hostility and has confused military personnel in regard to their duties.
“It was very embarrassing when the officer who was supposed to guard the secrets became the one who sold them to China,” DPP caucus director-general Pan Men-an (潘孟安) told a press conference.
The DPP caucus demanded the ministry hold those responsible accountable and conduct a thorough review of the existing regulations, as well investigate the failure to implement current mechanisms before reporting to the legislature.
“The regulations and mechanisms are in place. The problem was that they were not appropriately implemented and the review process of the retired military personnel’s visit to China was obviously flawed,” DPP Legislator Tsai Chi-chang (蔡其昌) said.
Tsai said the case was the “tip of the iceberg” because similar cases have been found in the army, navy and air force in the past year.
The lawmaker urged the ministry to reclassify the confidential levels of secrets and redefine the meaning of secrets to prevent espionage cases in the future.
DPP legislators Hsu Chih-chieh (許智傑) and Chiu Chih-wei (邱志偉) said it was time for Ma to review his China policy because recent espionage cases showed that Taiwanese businesspeople and military personnel did not know how to appropriately assess cross-strait relations.
The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) also commented on the case.
“This has gravely endangered Taiwan’s security. It’s a shame for the military,” KMT Legislator Lin Yu-fang (林郁方) told reporters. “We demand severe punishment to deter the recurrence of such cases.”