Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Chinese security chief’s visit kept secret

A visit to Taiwan by Chinese Vice Minister of Public Security Chen Zhimin (陳智敏) and his delegation earlier this month was shrouded in secrecy and intentionally unpublicized, even as talks were held with senior government officials, an investigation by the Taipei Times showed yesterday.

This important story, co-written with my colleague Vincent Y. Chao and others at the Taipei Times, continues here.

It baffles me that no Chinese-language media in Taiwan — including our sister paper, the Liberty Times — has picked up on the story. Some international media have, however, and they all source us:

星島 Sing Tao (Toronto)
Straits Times 
聯合早報 Zao Bao
南洋視界 Nan Yang Post


mike said...

I'll take that as a "no", then.

J. Michael Cole 寇謐將 said...


I did intend to reply to your question, but for some reason while it appeared in my e-mail, it didn’t show up on my blog. Case in point, only the “I’ll take that as a ‘no,’ then,” showed up. I didn’t delete the previous message and assumed that you did. That said, I’ve also been extraordinarily busy in the past few days, usually working from 11am until 4am, so you’ll have to forgive me if I didn’t respond immediately. Lastly, I also intend to write my editorial on this very subject next Monday, so I don’t want to pre-empt the whole thing.

Now, that said, the “angles.” I have no doubt there are different “angles” and that it is no coincidence Chinese media would provide information — beating Taiwanese authorities and media to it — on one of them: crime fighting. It undoubtedly was one component of the talks, but only one of. Had it been limited to this, there is no reason why the entire visit should have been made secret (and if it was still too controversial, why not hold it somewhere else, not in Taiwan, in neutral territory?). The implication, therefore, is that there was more to the visit than the authorities have admitted to. The Taiwan Affairs Office yesterday was conspicuously silent on the matter.

The most “terrifying” angle is “anti-terrorism,” because, as Joseph Wu told me when I interviewed him, China’s definition of “terrorism” can be very wide indeed and include Tibetan/Uighur/Taiwanese/Falun Gong groups advocating the many things Beijing finds unpalatable. Based on the experience of intelligence cooperation between Western agencies and China in the lead-up to the 2008 Beijing Olympics, subject I paid close tabs on, given my previous job, this can get very scary. In the name of cooperation, Western intelligence agencies did the work of Chinese intelligence on their own territories against individuals who were not breaking any local laws but who are seen as “enemies” of China. Cooperation in intelligence is a very slippery slope, especially when there are benefits to be gained on either side (let’s imagine the CIB or NPA prioritizes its investigation on a certain triad which operates both in Taiwan and China; the PSB has all kinds of useful information on them, but in return wants material on, say, certain Tibetan dissidents. Is there a mechanism in place that regulates how Taiwanese authorities are supposed to share intelligence with a country that, not so long ago — and in my view still is — its No. 1 enemy?)

Another “angle,” and I’m sure the delegation did some of this, is intelligence collection during the trip. Another recruiting. Expect some of the personal contacts they made on this trip to soon be invited to China (as they already do with KMT officials, business people and retired military personnel), where they will be wined and dined and, in the process, probably leak some more information.

This is ugly stuff.

mike said...

"This is ugly stuff.

It is indeed; those were the angles I immediately thought of, but it helps greatly to see them rendered in minimally speculative detail.

As to the comment, no sweat - there are a number of bugs with the Blogger template.

Thanks for taking the time out to reply, I'll be sure to read your editorial next week.