The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) government deployed 30,000 people nationwide during martial law in the 1980s to monitor religious groups, with 1,169 people sent to Presbyterian groups alone, findings by the Transitional Justice Commission showed on Monday.
The figures were discovered by a team of academics tasked by the Executive Yuan commission to research surveillance of religious groups during authoritarian rule based on files released by the Investigation Bureau and the National Security Bureau.
A handbook on “deployment work” issued in 1981 by the Investigation Bureau showed that 30,000 officers were sent across Taiwan to surveil the public, about one for every 500 to 700 people, the commission said.
There were four types of deployed officers: “detectives,” “internal,” “key” and “general,” also known as correspondents, it said.
Detectives, responsible for detecting political threats, were managed by the Investigation Bureau’s third division, while the other three categories were under the purview of the fifth division and instructed by field offices, the report said.
General and key officers were expected to report to their superiors at least once a month, while internal officers and detectives maintained constant communication, it added.
It is noteworthy that the system was adjusted in 1991 to replace the code for informants from Chinese characters to numbers, the report said.
The titles for deployed officers were also changed to different types of “consultants,” it added.
Researchers also found evidence that Christian fellowships on school campuses were a key target for surveillance in the early 1980s.
In a document on “conspiratorial activities” by Presbyterian university groups, intelligence units instructed all personnel to closely control the “illegal activities” of the church.
The Presbyterian Church is “using religion as a pretext for engaging in poisonous [independence] and anti-government activities in Taiwan, proselytizing to teachers and students to create a secret political movement and polluting their minds,” the document read.
The Investigation Bureau instructed campus “stability” groups and military instructors to recruit informants for surveillance, in addition to working with local police to suppress activities when necessary and providing “correction” to those who participated in fellowship activities, researchers said.
Files from 1983 and 1985 also include regular reports by the Ministry of Education to the Investigation Bureau on Presbyterian “infiltration” on campuses.
Other documents from the latter half of the 1980s reveal fears of the Chinese Communist Party exploiting religious groups ahead of the re-establishment of cross-strait travel in 1987, researchers said.
The “222 Project” was therefore enacted to conduct a thorough probe of temples, martial arts groups, foreign religious organizations and missionaries, they said.
Meanwhile, in the higher-level National Security Bureau archives, especially those pertaining to the “Declaration of Human Rights,” researchers found clear evidence that former president Chiang Ching-kuo (蔣經國) and police directed local leaders and other officials to assist with monitoring and controlling the Presbyterian Church.
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