Mon, May 20, 2019 - Page 3 News List

FEATURE: Commission outlines past KMT spying on students

By Chen Yu-fu, Jason Pan and Jonathan Chin  /  Staff reporters, with staff writer

A notice released by the Transitional Justice Commission explains how the then-Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) government ran extensive intelligence networks to spy on students during the Martial Law era.

Photo courtesy of the Transitional Justice Commission

The then-Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) government during the Martial Law era ran extensive intelligence networks to spy on students, with thousands of agents and informants stationed on college and university campuses, the Transitional Justice Commission has said.

The party leadership in the 1970s designated deterring and stopping student activism a top priority, the commission said.

The KMT coordinated national intelligence and internal security agencies, its party system and administrative sections of the Ministry of Education to establish the spy network to monitor and report political discourse and activities by university students, it said.

The spying program was given the codename “Operation Spring Breeze,” which mandated all college and university administrations to form a top-level “school security group” for espionage as well as the mobilization of agents and informants, with the stated aim to “set up networks at every level and have an informant in every classroom,” documents showed.

“The KMT leadership took lessons from its defeat in the Chinese Civil War at the hands of Chinese Communist troops, the ‘Diaoyutai Movement’ protesting Japanese claims to the Senkaku Islands [Diaoyutai Islands, 釣魚台] in the 1970s and a student movement calling for democracy in South Korea at the time. So they wanted to exterminate any student activism in Taiwan,” said a commission member who spoke on condition of anonymity.

There were more than 80 colleges and universities in Taiwan at the time, the commission member said, adding that documents showed that the KMT planted covert agents, moles and informants in classrooms, lecturers’ offices, students’ social and recreational clubs and dormitories, even infiltrating school staff groups.

“The espionage network had the main goals of surveillance, as well as detecting and stopping Chinese Communist spies, Taiwanese independence advocates and conspiracy activities. Its mission was to root out all political subterfuge and prevent any initiation of student activism,” the commission member said.

The operation involved about 3,900 people as paid informants and covert agents in 1975, the commission said.

Citing National Chung Hsing University as an example, the commission member said that 59 people — 31 school employees and 28 students — were paid by and received instructions from the network to monitor and spy on students that year.

The informants filed 23 reports on staff activities, 24 reports on student club activities, and seven reports on “suspicious talks” by lecturers and students, they said.

The number of covert agents, moles and informants rose to 5,041 in 1983, the commission members have found.

“This is such a big, horrifying number,” commission Acting Chairwoman Yang Tsui (楊翠) said.

Documents showed that political dissent increased every year, with university students forming clubs with nonconformist views, so the KMT leadership increased the frequency of meetings to discuss the operation from once a year to twice a month to receive reports from campus security groups.

The meetings, which were held at the ministry, were attended by KMT members, and officials from national intelligence and internal security agencies, documents showed.

National intelligence and internal security officials initiated countermeasures and plans to deal with what they deemed “abnormal activities” on campuses, specifically to crack down on people perceived to hold dissenting views, they showed.

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