Thursday, October 16, 2008

PRC spooks back in Taiwan

In July this year, Taiwan’s Government Information Office (GIO) announced, among other policy relaxations, the resumption of the posting of Xinhua News Agency and People’s Daily correspondents in Taiwan, the “first step in implementing President Ma Ying-jeou’s [馬英九] policy to normalize the process for correspondents from the two sides of the Taiwan Strait to carry out newsgathering activities in each other’s territories.”

Queried on the matter on July 17, Mainland Affairs Council Vice Chairman Johnnason Liu (劉德勳) said that Xinhua reporters had not been suspended from Taiwan in 2005 because of “hostile” reporting on Taiwan following China’s enactment of the Anti-Secession Law, but rather because their reporting was “extremely divergent from the actual facts.”

But the situation now, Liu said, is “slightly different,” likely a reference to the rapprochement between the Ma administration and Beijing, adding that “the executive agencies cannot request the media to do reporting or to make guarantees for their reports, [as] this is an absolute precondition of media freedom.” Absolutely.

The problem, however, lies less with whether Xinhua, as a state-owned news agency, will provide skewed reporting on Taiwan (it will), and more with the fact that it serves as a cover for Chinese intelligence officers — something any intelligence agency with counter-intelligence capabilities will tell you. In fact, according to an unnamed Western intelligence service with a solid reputation for its counter-intelligence efforts against the People’s Republic of China (PRC), officials always assume that any new Xinhua reporter posted to the country either works for or colludes with Chinese intelligence. Given the situation in the Taiwan Strait, there is no reason to assume that the function of Xinhua in Taiwan would be any different.

As per new regulations, Chinese correspondents will be given one-time permits valid for three months that can be extended once for three months after getting approval by government agencies concerned. Chinese correspondents already posted in Taiwan will also be able to apply for an extension if the requirement arises. GIO Minister Vanessa Shih (史亞平) also said that to make the application process more convenient for Chinese correspondents, renewable entry and exit permits valid for one year will be issued.

With a greater influx of Chinese coming to Taiwan following the Ma administration’s new policies, the return of Xinhua reporters (and perhaps, starting next year, the arrival of Chinese students at Taiwan’s universities), Beijing finds itself in a far better position to collect intelligence on Taiwan’s defense, command-and-control, communication, emergency preparedness, media and civilian infrastructure. We can also expect Xinhua to establish list of names from the opposition and to be present at any anti-Ma demonstrations organized by the pan-green camp, including the one planned for Oct. 25.

“Reciprocity” and media “freedom” are a deceit, as they continue to be conspicuously absent on China’s part. Through this measure, however, the Ma administration has ensured, by design or omission, that names and pictures of various opposition figures in Taiwan will be circulated in Beijing’s vast intelligence apparatus.

Perhaps we’d better find out who they are and what they look like…

1 comment:

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