The three telecom services that would be opened to Chinese investment under the cross-strait service trade agreement would not put the nation’s information security at risk, the National Communications Commission (NCC) said, adding that the nation’s major telecom carriers are banned from hiring Chinese-funded computer maintenance service contractors.
The commission made the remarks at a public hearing on Tuesday after a few of the nation’s telecom and electrical engineering experts repeatedly said the pact would allow Chinese nationals to access telecom facilities and enable them to steal the personal information of Taiwanese.
The experts also announced their displeasure with NCC Chairperson Howard Shyr (石世豪), who said last week that the commission only knew three college professors who oppose the plans for telecom services. The experts said the list of qualified people opposed to the policy has expanded to nearly 200.
While the commission held a public hearing at 2pm, the experts held a press conference at the same time at a separate venue to voice their objections.
Asked why they chose not to debate the viability of the policy at the commission’s hearing, the experts said their initial task was to educate the public and they would consider discussing the issue with the commission at a later date.
Ferng Huei-wen (馮輝文), who teaches computer science and information engineering at National Taiwan University of Science and Technology, said that to ban Chinese from entering telecom facilities would be useless.
Taiwanese director Doze Niu (紐承澤) easily provided access for a Chinese photographer to take pictures at a naval base in Taiwan, so Chinese will be able to sneak into telecom facilities under false pretenses, the experts said.
Lin Tsung-nan (林宗男) of National Taiwan University’s Electrical Engineering department said the commission’s claims that the three telecom services are mostly used by corporations and operate on closed networks was just “a way of talking.”
“There is no such thing as a closed network,” Lin said.
The commission reiterated in its presentation at the hearing that the trade pact will only permit Chinese companies to invest in three services offered by Type II telecom businesses, including store and forward network services, store and retrieve network services, and data exchange communication services.
The commission added that Chinese telecom carriers investing in any of these three services must be a publicly listed firm in China or overseas and must not hold more than 50 percent of shares in the firms. Taiwanese carriers must also hold valid security certifications if they want to receive the investment from Chinese investors. Chinese nationals, on the other hand, are banned from entering the network facilities owned by Taiwanese carriers
Though Taiwan allows Chinese investment in computer maintenance companies, Taiwanese telecom carriers are not allowed to hire their services, nor are they allowed to ask any Chinese-funded companies to manage telecommunication facilities on their behalf.
China allows Taiwanese companies to invest in Internet access services, domestic and offshore call centers and online data transaction centers that are for electronic commerce (e-Commerce) Web sites only.
Some of the participants at the hearing said the telecom business should be considered a part of the national defense system and should not be opened to China.
They also questioned whether businesses would gain any competitive edge if their Web sites were allowed to be viewed in China. Some said that Beijing could force the Taiwanese businesspeople to turn over customer data if they want to do business in China.
NCC Spokesperson Yu Hsiao-cheng (虞孝成) said in response that subscribers to the telecom services are mostly corporate customers and will want their networks to be accessed by designated users only.
They buy the specialized services because they care more than anybody else about the security and reliability of the system, he said, adding that most of corporate users will also encrypt their messages to prevent any confidential information from being stolen.
“As far as I am concerned, the Chinese online shopping Web site Taobao has approximately 1 million users in Taiwan. Taiwanese buyers have already left their information there. We cannot ask people to stop their going to their Web sites for fear that their information might be stolen because that will make us no different from China,” he said.
Yu added that small and medium-sized businesses in Taiwan can benefit from the agreement because their creative products could have a legitimate way to directly reach a market of 1.3 billion people through their e-Commerce Web sites without fear of being blocked by the Chinese government.