It speaks volumes about what is considered normal in Taiwan that a retired general — Kao An-kuo (高安國) in this case — could call on military officers not only to surrender to China, but also to overthrow the nation’s democratically elected government, and Taiwanese could throw up their hands and say: “We’ve heard this all before.”
Kao regularly posts low-budget YouTube videos in which he is sitting behind a microphone in his military fatigues criticizing the government and spreading disinformation, for example, on alleged deaths after COVID-19 vaccinations and that the government was sacrificing Taiwanese lives by rejecting Beijing’s offers of Chinese vaccines.
Kao’s call on the military to surrender was posted to YouTube on June 7, and it appears to have gone largely under the radar, only drawing comment in the past few weeks, with Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Lai Jui-lung (賴瑞隆) saying that the retired general’s words amount to treason and contravene the National Security Act (國家安全法).
The criteria for treason — if Taiwan were a normal country — seem to be met by Kao’s statement, even if it is difficult to take seriously a lone man in his fatigues spouting extremist antipathy in a poorly lit makeshift studio.
However, it is far from clear whether prosecution for treason is viable based on current legislation, not least because it refers to China as “the mainland area” and does not consider it a foreign country.
Kao seems to be acting as Beijing’s agent, but the Anti-infiltration Act (反滲透法) only concerns activity on foreign soil or activity in Taiwan to influence elections on behalf of a foreign government.
Article 107 of the Criminal Code lists “inciting a person in the armed services to neglect his duty, desert, mutiny, or commit a breach of discipline” as a crime punishable by death or life imprisonment, but only under the condition that the nation is at war or war is imminent.
Lawyer Huang Di-ying (黃帝穎) has said that articles 153 and 155 of the code would be applicable to Kao’s case. The former concerns inciting another person to commit an offense, for which the accused would be liable to a sentence of “not more than two years, short-term imprisonment or a fine of not more than thirty thousand [New Taiwan] dollars”; the latter concerns somebody “who incites a person in the armed services to fail to execute his duty, commit a breach of discipline, desert, or mutiny,” and carries a jail sentence of six months to five years. These punishments are quite lenient for treason.
Kao seems harmless in his videos with low production values, but he is also involved with other groups, such as the Blue Sky Action Alliance, which enjoys the support of China Unification Promotion Party (CUPP) founder Chang An-le (張安樂), a former gang leader with more influence and a bigger organization behind him than Kao.
During a political forum in Shanghai last month called “Chinese Compatriots Across the Strait: Joining Hands to Realize the Chinese Dream,” Chang also said that he would call on military commanders to surrender on the day China annexes Taiwan by force, although it is legitimate to ask why he thinks they might listen to him.
The alliance, the CUPP and another pro-unification group, the Concentric Patriotism Association, are regularly suspected of being behind public disturbances. The groups’ funding can allegedly be traced back to China.
Cases involving individuals like Kao, with their limited influence and funds, might not seem to be cause for concern, but they highlight the impotence of Taiwan’s anti-treason laws. Organizations such as the CUPP are potentially more problematic. However, the government’s efforts need to focus on investigating those overseas who are funding individual and group efforts at destabilizing the nation.
The global chip shortage last year caused an unprecedented supply-chain crisis, affecting many key industries, including the auto industry. Europe, Japan and the US began to realize the indispensability and ubiquitous dominance of Taiwan’s semiconductor manufacturing industry. At the same time, amid the US-China trade war, Beijing’s military aggressions against Taiwan became increasingly blatant and provocative. In light of these developments, Europe, Japan and the US are formulating new policies to rebuild their domestic semiconductor manufacturing base, so as to mitigate the enormous geopolitical and economic risks involved. Last year, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC) commanded 56 percent of the global
Anniversaries can serve multiple functions. For example when Taiwan commemorates the 228 Incident, there is a combined feeling of sadness over the sufferings following the events in 1947, joined with the resolve that such a tragedy should never be allowed to happen again. This year, when Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) attended the 25th anniversary of the UK’s 1997 handover of Hong Kong to the People’s Republic of China (PRC), a different and strange mood prevailed. Even stranger yet was Xi’s explanatory narrative. Those who had attended the historic event in 1997 could recall how festive it had been. Media were
When I was teaching in Lesotho in southern Africa during the 1980s, I taught a class on comparative foreign policy. The course included trips to the US embassy, the Soviet embassy, the British embassy and the newly established Chinese embassy. The students could ask the ambassadors and staff questions about foreign policy, and would then write a report as their final term paper. The Chinese ambassador felt that the US-style education I delivered was unique and invited me to go to China to teach. At the time, China was planning to open up to the world, and it needed professors versed
As the geopolitical effects of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine become more obvious, the collective defense provided by NATO is the key security umbrella that unites European countries and protects them from further intrusion by their malicious eastern neighbor. With Finland and Sweden having been invited to join NATO — which, if they join, would increase the number of member states from 30 to 32 — two more nations in the region are in line to be included in the regional security pact. Meanwhile, the support that Russia has been receiving behind the scenes from China and other countries is one of the