Chang Hsien-yi (張憲義), a former member of the nation’s doomed nuclear weapons development project, on Monday said that a fear of politicians using such weapons was why he fled to the US 29 years ago.
Chang was deputy director of the First Institute of the Chungshan Institute of Science and Technology (CSIST) and defected to the US in 1988.
In a video conference to mark the release in Taipei of his Chinese-language book titled Nuclear bomb! Spy? CIA: Record of an Interview with Chang Hsien-yi, Chang said that he decided to leave because he was worried that “ambitious politicians might use nuclear weapons.”
At the time he believed such people would be unable to foster the well-being of Taiwanese and would also pose a threat to their safety, he said.
In a video conference, the 73-year-old was asked why he wrote in a resignation letter in 1988 that the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) was one of five reasons for his decision to leave the CSIST.
He said he was surprised at himself over why he singled out the DPP, because at the time it was not the DPP he was worried about, but ambitious politicians.
Such people included military “strongmen,” who could be from the DPP or the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), he said.
“It does not matter what the political parties are,” Chang said. “In my mind, there are only ambitious politicians.”
Chang’s defection was achieved with the assistance of the CIA.
With his testimony, Washington, in cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency, worked to have all facilities related to nuclear weapons development at the CSIST dismantled and shut down the laboratory several days after Chang’s arrival in the US.
As a military colonel, Chang was listed as a fugitive by the military that year.
The pursuit of Chang by authorities lasted for 12 years and six months until July 2000, when an arrest warrant for him expired.
The details of Chang’s defection were revealed in an interview by Academia Sinica associate research fellow Chen Yi-shen (陳儀深) last year, and the contents of the interview were published in his book.
Chang said he did not publish the book for money or to reverse a “miscarriage of justice.”
Instead, he wanted people to develop an appreciation for this “historical incident,” so that they can learn from it and help promote the welfare of Taiwanese.