Chinese “free independent travelers” (FIT), who are expected to start arriving in Taiwan next month, could pose a threat to national security and the safety of the candidates in next year’s elections, a legislator said yesterday.
Pointing to the expected arrival of 90,000 independent Chinese tourists by the end of this year following the lifting of the ban on individual Chinese travelers, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Tsai Huang--liang (蔡煌瑯) said the development could represent a serious security loophole.
The Tourism Bureau launched negotiations with Beijing about Chinese FITs in late November last year and the Taiwan Strait Tourism Association and the Cross-Strait Tourism Exchange Association have achieved an initial consensus on FITs, with trial -operations focusing on tourists from selected Chinese cities.
However, Tsai Huang-liang said that based on recent comments by National Security Bureau Director Tsai Der-sheng (蔡得勝), the bureau had evidently not adopted national security measures to address the challenge posed by Chinese FITs, adding that the bureau “was not putting enough emphasis on national security.”
Tsai Der-sheng last week said during an inquiry at the legislature that he worried the national security apparatus had insufficient manpower and financial resources to handle Chinese FITs.
“The [President] Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) administration should make the necessary assessments and implement security measures to ensure national security before approving Chinese FITs,” Tsai Huang-liang said.
Even before the decision to open the door to Chinese FITs was made, the bureau had already monitored several Chinese spies who were coming to Taiwan as tourists or visiting academics, he said, adding that the situation would become more serious once individual Chinese tourists are allowed in.
The bureau was unlikely to be able to monitor everything and the possibility that the number of people who pose a security risk, but go unnoticed, could even exceed the number of suspects who are kept under tabs, he said.
Therefore, the implementation of a Chinese FIT program should be done incrementally, he said.
“[The Ma administration] should be longsighted in terms of national security and must be active about it, or this will become a serious loophole in national security,” Tsai Huang-liang said.
DPP Legislator Huang Wei-cher (黃偉哲) said there were two possibilities that had made it impossible for the government to reinforce national security ahead of the first arrivals of independent Chinese tourists.
One possibility was that the -bureau did not inform the Ma administration of the dangers and only now that implementation is around the corner does the government understand the risks, which shows a lack of foresight on the government’s part, Huang said.
Huang said a second possibility was that the bureau had warned the Ma administration about the dangers, but the government decided to proceed anyway and disregard national security in favor of increasing the number of tourists.
Huang said that regardless of the reason, Ma should take responsibility for his decisions, adding that if the president made the decision purely to notch up political achievements, this would be “unforgivable.”
During a presentation at the legislature’s Foreign and National Defense Committee on Thursday, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Tsai Chin-lung (蔡錦隆) referred to Chinese FITs as “an army on the national border” that would be difficult to manage in terms of national security.