Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Chen Ting-fei (陳亭妃) on Saturday slammed the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) after the latter returned a draft foreign influences transparency act to the legislature’s Procedure Committee earlier in the week.
“The KMT ignores the will of the majority and is willing to turn itself into a mouthpiece for Chinese communists and serve their interests. This is absolutely unacceptable,” said Chen, one of the bill’s 31 cosponsors.
China’s efforts to influence Taiwan are increasingly multipronged, including the use of content farms, anonymously posted rumors and other forms of cognitive warfare, Chen said, adding that the proposed bill would define those acting on behalf of China as foreign agents and penalize or fine them.
Photo: Lin Liang-sheng, Taipei Times
If passed, it would have supplemented the Anti-infiltration Act (反滲透法) by covering activities that occur outside of electoral campaigns, she said.
For example, despite being known proxies of Beijing, the people responsible for throwing paint on former Causeway Bay Books manager Lam Wing-kei (林榮基) and those who threw feces at Aegis, a restaurant that had shown support for Hong Kong, last year face only light fines and no prison sentences, Chen said.
The bill would treat the assault or intimidation of Chinese exiles in Taiwan as a special class of crime with harsher sentences, she said, adding that it would also authorize the Ministry of Justice to designate people or corporations that act under the direction of a foreign power to further its interests as foreign agents.
Last year, the DPP and the Taiwan Statebuilding Party proposed a foreign hostile forces transparency act and a foreign forces and agents act respectively. The KMT blocked both bills by parliamentary procedure.
Compared with other pan-green camp bills proposed over the past year, undeclared foreign agents would face a bigger fine under the new proposed bill, while people who failed to register as foreign agents would have faced fines of NT$200,000 to NT$700,000.
People who lie to investigators about their relationship with a foreign power or government, or make a false declaration, would have been punishable by a sentence of up to three years in prison, and failure to correct mistakes in a declaration would result in a prison sentence of up to one year if the bill passed.
Ford Liao (廖福特), a research fellow at Academia Sinica’s Institutum Iurisprudentiae, said that the Anti-infiltration Act handles foreign campaign financing, but does not deal with the infiltration of civic groups or the media by foreign governments.
The proposed foreign influences transparency act would have given regulators the information they need to be aware of influence, for example by requiring lobbyists to disclose the foreign governments for which they work or depend on for funding, he said.
It would have given clarity to a broad range of problems, such as the issue of which foreign organizations are “foreign powers” under the law and the distinction between legal and illegal sources of outside financing, he said.
In response to Chen, KMT caucus deputy secretary-general Cheng Li-wun (鄭麗文) said that “if Chen really cares about the issue, she should not have added her personal political agenda” to the bill.
The KMT does not object to the principle of the proposed law, but takes issue with DPP lawmakers “slipping Taiwanese independence” into its language, she said.
The bill’s references to “the government of Taiwan” are legally problematic and likely in conflict with the Constitution, which defines and refers to the nation as the Republic of China, she said.
Additional reporting by Chen Yun
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