The Straits Exchange Foundation’s (SEF) unilateral approval of a former Bamboo Union (竹聯幫) leader’s application for a “Taiwan compatriot travel document” (台胞證) has shocked prosecutors and police, who called for the fugitive to be extradited to Taiwan from China in accordance with the Agreement on Jointly Cracking Down on Crime and Mutual Legal Assistance Across the Strait (海峽兩岸共同打擊犯罪及司法互助協議).
Sources speculated that Chang An-le’s (張安樂) motive for applying for the “Taiwan compatriot travel document” — a document approved by Chinese authorities allowing Taiwanese nationals to travel to China — was to obtain a viable way of transporting himself between China and Taiwan, adding that because Chang is a wanted fugitive whose passport had probably expired, he had no valid personal identification.
“He is most probably attempting to return to Taiwan in an open manner by using the document as a means to prove his identity,” sources said.
Chang, nicknamed “the White Wolf,” is listed among the nation’s 10 most-wanted fugitives. He escaped to China just before being named a wanted person by the Taipei District Prosecutors’ Office for violating the Organized Crime Prevention Act (組織犯罪防制條例) in 1996, and has not returned since.
The SEF said it had asked for opinions from the Criminal Investigation Bureau (CIB) and the Taipei and Keelung district prosecutors’ offices. However, because of opposition to the views of the CIB and the prosecutors by other government agencies, it granted the request last Friday.
The bureau called the SEF’s decision a severe blow to the judiciary’s authority to fight crime. The prosecutors’ offices added that Chang is still a wanted fugitive and should be treated as such.
The CIB said it suggested the SEF refuse Chang’s request, adding that bureau officials should bring Chang back to Taiwan in accordance with the cross-strait agreement.
Since his escape from justice in 1996, Chang has continually challenged Taiwanese police about how he would return to Taiwan in blatant disregard of the law, the CIB said.
The SEF’s approval of Chang’s request would allow him to purchase a plane ticket and return to Taiwan, allowing him to avoid being shepherded onto a plane in handcuffs by bureau agents, the CIB said.
The bureau acknowledged its efforts in the past to extradite Chang had largely been ignored by China, which said that Chang had been in China prior to the agreement, signed in 2009, and voiced concern that should Chang — an investor in China who has hired many locals — be extradited, his businesses would be shut down, leaving his employees jobless.
Both prosecutors’ offices said they had also conveyed their criticism of the SEF’s actions, with the Keelung Prosecutors’ Office saying that if it knew where Chang was, it would try to arrest him in any way allowed under the Code of Criminal Procedure (刑事訴訟法).
The Taipei Prosecutors’ Office said that Chang, through his lawyer, has asked how long the wanted notice would remain in effect, to which the office said it responded that the wanted notice was still good for at least another decade.
Meanwhile, Mainland Affairs Council Minister Wang Yu-chi (王郁琦) said that he did not understand Chang’s motives for applying for such a document, adding that Chang did not need such a document to return to Taiwan.
However, Wang said that Chang had expressed his intent to return to Taiwan through “several different channels,” adding that if Chang did not turn himself in, it was still possible to negotiate with the Chinese on the possibility of extradition.
Additional reporting by Huang Tun-yen,
Lin Chun-hung and Chen Hui-ping