National security authorities and legislators agree that the Anti-infiltration Act (反滲透法) should be expanded to include crimes of “legitimate interest” and political activity, although media infiltration would be harder to address, an official with knowledge of the matter said.
Beijing reportedly uses a number of tactics to subvert Taiwanese democracy, the official said.
In addition to overt displays of military intimidation, it also recruits gangs to intimidate Hong Kongers in Taiwan, and has puppet agents lead political parties or sponsor referendums or recalls, security agencies have said.
In the past few years, attacks and vandalism by gang members on Hong Kongers and their businesses in Taiwan are suspected to have been carried out under Chinese instruction.
Hong Kong democracy advocate Joshua Wong (黃之鋒) and lawmakers were attacked by gang members at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport in 2017. Red paint was thrown at singer Denise Ho (何韻詩) in 2019 and at former Hong Kong Causeway Bay Books manager Lam Wing-kei (林榮基) last year.
Last month, a fire severely damaged the Aegis restaurant in Taipei that hires Hong Kongers who have fled the territory, nearly a year after the establishment was vandalized with chicken feces. The fire is under investigation.
The lenient sentences handed down in these cases have caused many to question the effectiveness of the act, which was passed on Dec. 31, 2019.
According to critics, the act lacks the scope necessary to counter many crimes aimed at infiltration by foreign powers, as it focuses on offenses during elections or in crowds.
Individual attacks are left to be prosecuted under criminal law, which does not stipulate punishments adequate to deter infiltration, critics say.
A draft amendment to the act proposed by Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Kuo Kuo-wen (郭國文) seeks to correct this by adding provisions for violent crimes, property damage or technological disruption committed under the direction or funding of a foreign power.
National security officials support including crimes of “legitimate social or individual interest” in the act, pending evaluation by the Ministry of Justice, a national security official said on condition of anonymity.
The attacks on Lim and the Aegis were not ordinary crimes, the official said.
As they were clearly committed with the intent of intimidating Hong Kongers in Taiwan and “warning” Taiwanese, they are matters of “national legal interest,” they said.
However, the ministry considers them matters of “individual legal interest” and therefore does not support amending the act to govern such crimes, they added.
If the law is not amended and culprits continue to escape with lenient penalties, the official said they fear it would undermine the justice system’s authority.
On the other hand, the official was less enthusiastic about the amendments proposed by the New Power Party.
The party’s proposal seeks to address political infiltration through illegal donations, political parties, recalls and referendums, as well as media infiltration.
The act is aimed at safeguarding the integrity of the democratic process, and as such, amending it to include behaviors involving political parties and public officials during elections is acceptable, the official said.
However, aspects of the amendments that could affect people’s right to participate in politics and are therefore closely related to other laws must be discussed by the Ministry of the Interior, they added.
As matters related to the media involve a separate set of laws and freedom of speech, the official said they should be “handled with discretion” after evaluation by the National Communications Commission and other agencies.
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