A top-ranking retired navy officer has been found guilty of passing on classified military material to China and recruiting junior officers to do the same.
The High Court’s Kaohsiung Branch early this week sentenced Ko Cheng-sheng (柯政盛), a retired vice admiral, to 14 months in prison for violating the National Security Act (國家安全法) and the Classified National Security Information Protection Act (國家機密保護法).
Ko, who was the deputy commander of the Republic of China (ROC) Naval Fleet before retiring in 2003, is one of the highest-ranked retired military officers caught spying for China to date.
Last year, Chen Chu-fan (陳築藩), a retired lieutenant-general and deputy commander of the Military Police Command with the equivalent military rank as Ko, was also convicted of espionage.
Ko, 70, had ties with a Taiwanese businessman with Australian citizenship, Shen Ping-kang (沈秉康), 75.
According to prosecutors, Shen had developed good contacts within Chinese government circles from business dealings over the years, including with officials from the People’s Liberation Army General Political Department and the “Shanghai City No. 7 Office,” said to be a branch of the Chinese intelligence apparatus.
In 1998, after learning that Shen and Ko were close friends, Chinese authorities began trying to recruit both men, with a special focus on Ko, a rear admiral at the time, knowing he had access to top-level classified material.
Investigations by prosecutors showed that Shen arranged several all-expenses-paid trips to Australia for Ko and his family, who then traveled to Beijing and other cities in China, between 1998 and 2007.
On these trips, Ko also met up with the Chinese Communist Party’s United Front Work Department, with whom he agreed to cooperate.
Meanwhile, Ko had taken up the post of deputy commander of the ROC Naval Fleet, and was further promoted to vice admiral in 2000.
According to prosecutors, Ko passed on classified information to Chinese officials and then tried to recruit naval officers under his charge for the purpose of organizing an internal network to transfer classified information.
A navy source said Ko would have caused serious damage to national security if he had given all he knew to China, especially the nation’s military mobilization and operational tactics, known as the “Gu An Combat Plan” (固安作戰計畫), for the defense of Taiwan and Penghu in the event of war.
“If Ko had passed on that information, then the ‘Gu An Combat Plan’ is only fit for the rubbish pile. Our battleships would be sitting ducks; once they head out of the ports, they would be targets of attack for Chinese forces,” according to the source, who declined to be named.
However, other military men said the plans were revised over the years, so there was only limited damage done from the leaks by Ko.
Investigators found that Ko’s friends knew he had visited China numerous times since retirement and was fond of boasting that he was “conducting important business on behalf of the government.”
Shen was also convicted and given a 12-month sentence.
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