The Chinese military has sent more than 600 spies to infiltrate Taiwan over the past decade, with at least 100 of them posing as taxi drivers during their stay here, a local Internet-based news service reported yesterday.
Meanwhile, a defense official, speaking on condition of anonymity, accused National Security Bureau (NSB) Director General Ting Yu-chou (丁渝洲) of downplaying the threat posed by suspected spies in Taiwan and exaggerating that posed by Chinese-national residents in his briefings to Premier Tang Fei (唐飛).
Quoting intelligence sources within the NSB, the ET Today news service said Ting had initially planned to make a full report to Tang on the matter when Tang visited the NSB on Tuesday.
Ting ultimately changed his mind, however, downplaying the matter and replacing it with a brief, ambiguous reference to "China's ever-stronger intention to take Taiwan," the report added.
Ting called on Tang and other government leaders to take precautions in light of the presence of approximately 80,000 Chinese nationals who now live in Taiwan on either a long- or short-term basis.
According to the intelligence sources cited by ET Today, the more than 600 spies sent to Taiwan by China's People's Liberation Army (PLA) are mostly from the armored division of the PLA.
They are here mainly to collect information about Taiwan's road conditions and traffic networks, which the PLA army would use as a reference in any confrontation on Taiwan.
Around 100 of the PLA spies gather the information by driving around the country as taxi drivers.
"The report even contains what ordinary Taiwanese think about the Taiwan military and the location of 24-hour convenience stores," the ET Today report said.
A defense official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told the Taipei Times that there are reasons for Ting to downplay such wide-scale infiltration.
"Over the past 10 years, the intelligence community has often tended to over-exaggerate the number of potential Chinese intelligence agents in Taiwan. The figure was once as high as 6,000. It could be pretty scary to the public," the official said.
"The over-exaggeration could be interpreted as attempts by intelligence agents to convince their superiors that they are working hard. Alternatively, it could be that they just want to win praise from government leaders," he said.
"NSB Director General Ting has conformed to that essential pattern by choosing this time to highlight the potential threat of the Chinese nationals in Taiwan while glossing over the obvious threat posed by PLA spies here," he said.
The NSB's reputation was stained in June by a serious security violation involving a recently-retired bureau department chief, who left for China without obtaining the necessary approval from the authorities.
Pan Hsi-hsien (
As the leader of the country's top security agency, Ting should not conceal the PLA's unchecked infiltration into Taiwan but should instead be working on ways to curb it, the official said.
"It appears that the NSB cannot do much about the PLA spies in Taiwan. They probably have problems tracking them down. It is a serious national security problem," he said.
Intelligence sources say that PLA spies enter Taiwan mostly by boat, and can easily bypass Taiwan's coastal defenses.
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