Thu, Aug 08, 2013 - Page 3 News List

Proposed opening up of mail sector a cause for concern

By Lee Hsin-fang and Stacy Hsu  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

The opening up of Taiwan’s mailing list compilation and mailing service industry under the cross-strait service trade agreement could give Chinese investors free access to information regarding politicians’ vote brokers and the shareholders of the nation’s listed companies, an observer of cross-strait affairs warned yesterday.

Cross-Strait Agreement Watch convener Lai Chung-chiang (賴中強) said many Taiwanese companies commission mailing list compilations and mailing service providers to help them send business-related information to their customers.

“Companies forward their mailing lists to these service providers, which then print the firm’s information and send it to every person on the list,” Lai said.

Due to the nature of the industry, Chinese investors might be able to get lists of shareholders of listed companies, membership rosters of political parties and the personal information of legislators’ vote brokers if they are allowed to take control of such service providers, Lai said.

Lai said it would be a disaster if legislators accidentally picked a Chinese-invested mailing service supplier to help them send holiday greeting cards to their vote brokers, adding that it was difficult for politicians or government officials to verify whether a company was financially supported by Chinese investors.

The service supplier could also gain the upper hand in the ownership dispute of a Taiwanese company by acquiring the list of its shareholders, Lai added.

Echoing Lai’s concerns, Democratic Progressive Party’s Department of China Affairs director Honigmann Hong (洪財隆) said there was a great likelihood that the membership rosters of major political parties could fall into the hands of Chinese investors if they were to control such service suppliers.

“If that happens, it could pose grave problems to the nation,” Hong said.

Despite these apparent threats to the nation, Hong said the impact assessment report on the pact released by the Ministry of Economic Affairs late last month failed to mention any of them when discussing the mailing service industry.

“Instead, the report merely said that the pact would have only a limited impact on the industry because the number of mailing service suppliers has dropped significantly after the government implemented the Personal Information Protection Act (個人資料保護法),” Hong said.

Meanwhile, representatives from the tourism industry, one of the 64 sub-sectors Taiwan has agreed to open up to China, also voiced concerns over the possibility of Chinese investors gaining access to the personal information of Taiwanese if the pact was to be ratified.

“In the future, if Taiwanese sign up for a tour package offered by a Chinese-invested travel agency in the country, the agency would naturally gain their personal information and that is worrisome,” the representatives said.

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