Thursday, April 29, 2010
It was not my intention, as a member of the media, to test whether that exemption would apply when, on April 23, I sent a request for information to the Criminal Investigation Bureau (CIB) seeking information on a top triad organization in Taiwan after being commissioned by a reputable British publication to write an article about it. Four days later, the CIB replied with the following:
有關請求提供 [...] 相關資料1案，因本案涉及個人資料保護，依據「電腦處理個人資料保護法」第8條之規定「公務機關對個人資料之利用，應於法令職掌必要範圍內為之，並與蒐集之特定目的相符。」及「政府資訊公開法」第18條第4款規定：「政府機關為實施監督、管理、檢（調）查、取締等業務，而取得或製作監督、管理、檢（調）查、取締對象之相關資料，應限制公開或不予提供之。」，故無法提供 [...] 相關資料，尚請見諒!謝謝來信，敬祝安康!
Roughly translated, the CIB’s response reads as follows:
This is in reply to your message, dated April 23, 2010, sent to the Criminal Investigation Bureau:
As this case involves the protection of personal data, in accordance with Article 8 of the Computer-Processed Personal Data Protection Act (電腦保護個人資料處理法), we are unable to provide you with information on the [deleted by me] … Article 18, paragraph 4, states: “Unless for a specific purpose and satisfying any of the following requirements,* a non-government organization should not collect or process by computer personal data.”
* Exceptions as stipulated in the Act:
1. Upon written consent from the party concerned;
2. Having a contractual or quasi-contractual relationship with the party concerned and
having no potential harm to be done to the party concerned;
3. Such personal data is already in public domain and having no harm to the major
interest of the party concerned;
4. For purpose of academic research and having no harm to the major interest of the
party concerned; or
5. Specifically provided by the relevant laws in Article 3(7) ii and other laws.
The fact that, in my query, I clearly identified myself as a member of the media, both as a reporter for the Taipei Times and for the British organization (which I named in my e-mail), and provided my address and phone number at work was insufficient for the CIB to give me the information that I sought. Now, the amendment that cleared the legislative floor on April 27 stipulates that non-governmental organizations or individuals are allowed to search and collect generally accessible data about individuals when acting in the “public interest.” In other words, Netizens who launch a campaign to identify individuals involved in violations such as animal abuse would not be considered violators.
I find it difficult to understand how a report on a major criminal syndicate operating in Taiwan, China, Hong Kong and the Western coast of the United States would not be in the ill-defined “public interest,” or how it would be permissible to collect information on someone who abuses animals, but not so about individuals who engage in drug and human trafficking, among other crimes.
Clearly, the media exemptions do not apply, or someone is trying to protect the triads, which wouldn’t be surprising, given the close relationship between government officials and crime syndicates in Taiwan.
CtiTV, part of the China Times Group acquired by food conglomerate Want Want in November 2008, dedicated an entire hour-long program on Tuesday night, with special guests including Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Alex Tsai (蔡正元), attacking the Liberty Times and its president, and alleging that the Liberty Times’ poll center had faked a poll following Sunday’s debate between President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and DPP Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) on an economic cooperation framework agreement (ECFA) with China.
The Chinese-language China Times continued the offensive with six articles targeting the Liberty Times yesterday, including a front-page story and an editorial.
On its front page on Monday, the China Times quoted Want Want chairman Tsai Eng-meng (蔡衍明) as saying during the visit on Sunday: “On behalf of all colleagues at Want Want Group, I welcome CCP Hubei Provincial Committee Secretary Luo Qing quan (羅清泉).”
Luo’s tour included a visit to the CtiTV newsroom.
“After its initial investments in Hubei Province, Want Want Group is confident that investments in Hubei will expand in the future,” Tsai Eng-meng said. “We welcome Luo’s visit here to give us his guidance [蒞臨指導, lilin zhidao] and thank you for your support,” he said.
Luo is leading a 1,000-strong delegation from Hubei to enhance exchanges between his province and Taiwan. The delegation is expected to make more than US$500 million in purchases during the visit, organizers say.
DPP Legislator William Lai (賴清德) said Tsai Eng-meng seemed oblivious to the constitutional status of independent media, adding that the tendency in China to “seek the wisdom” of Chinese officials had no place in Taiwanese media or in a democratic society.
The executive deputy editor at the China Times played down the accusation on Monday night, saying the “seeking the wisdom” reference was polite language. He added that only “bored people” would make a fuss over this.
DPP Legislator Chen Ting-fei (陳亭妃), however, said the language made it very clear that the Chinese were the main objects of dependence, adding that using such vocabulary to welcome Chinese officials was not accidental.
The China Times Group also owns the Commercial Times, the China Times Weekly magazine, Want Daily and China Television Co, which was formerly controlled by the KMT. All have a pro-China editorial line.
In February last year, Want Want signed a preliminary deal to acquire a 47.58 percent stake in Asia Television (ATV) in Hong Kong, which in recent years has been accused of adopting a pro-Beijing line. Tsai Eng-meng is currently locked in a court battle over control of the broadcaster.
The Liberty Times said yesterday it planned to take legal action against the Want Want China Times Group over “groundless accusations.”
Want Want also operates hotels in Shanghai, Nanjing, Huaian and Xining.
The Hong-Kong-listed Want Want, whose main market is China but also sells in Taiwan and Hong Kong, has a 51 percent controlling stake in China Times Group.
Wednesday, April 28, 2010
In his brief introduction, Ma said that Sunday’s debate on an ECFA with Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) had helped increase the number of people who understood the trade pact, as well as public support for it, without providing sources.
“In the last 10 years, we have seen tremendous change in Asia. In year 2000, we had only three free-trade agreements,” Ma said in English. “By last year, the number went up to 58. Taiwan should not be isolated in this reform.”
“I’ve always said that we can handle diplomatic isolation, but economic isolation is fatal,” the president said. “We have to do something about it.”
This story, published today in the Taipei Times, continues here. (Foreground, right, hand raised, is me.)
I intended to underscore my question with the following analogy, which though crude, in my view perfectly describes the situation: Beijing is like the village’s serial rapist who sees a poor young lady outside in the rain. First, it goes to the other villagers and tells them ‘You leave her alone and you do not allow her into your houses, or I’ll beat you up.’ He then goes over to the young lady and tells her ‘You are welcome to seek shelter into my house. Only after you’ve spent the night will I perhaps allow you to visit some neighbors.’
There is no doubt that Ma is a consummate dissembler and deflector, with an uncanny ability to take no position or to provide answers that can be interpreted in a number of ways to please everybody. Unfortunately, one glaring contradiction he made in one of his answers on Tuesday was not seized upon by the audience. After repeating that there is absolutely nothing political in an ECFA, he said that free-trade agreements not only concern matters of economics, but have “lots of political” aspects. How can an ECFA be apolitical when FTAs have “lots” of politics?
“‘City under surveillance — Lives under surveillance’ would be a better slogan for this World Expo in China,” the organization said.
Ahead of the official opening of the World Expo on Saturday, RSF has launched its own virtual pavilion named Garden of Freedoms.
The online “Garden of Freedoms” (en.rsf.org/shanghai _en.html), available in Simplified Chinese, French and English, is dedicated to freedom of expression and has a cyber-police pavilion, a Tibet pavilion and a “prisoners of conscience enclosure,” where visitors can sign petitions for their release.
“The ‘Garden of Freedoms’ will be the only place in the Shanghai World Expo where you will be able to discover the realities that the Chinese authorities go out of their way to hush up. Several dozen Shanghai human rights activists are currently under close police surveillance to prevent them from meeting the foreign journalists who will be covering the inauguration,” RSF said.
“A World Expo is meant to bring people together around such values as progress, humanism and culture,” it said. “What kind of universal values is China offering us when it jails such advocates of democracy as the intellectual Liu Xiaobo [劉曉波]? Why do the representatives of the democratic countries, including French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who will be at the inauguration, say nothing about China’s dark side?”
Two representatives of RSF — including secretary-general Jean-Francois Julliard — have been denied visas to visit Shanghai.
An official at the Chinese embassy in Paris told RSF that Beijing had instructed them to refuse the visas.
Asked by the Taipei Times if RSF expected Chinese hacker attacks on the site, Vincent Brossel, head of RSF’s Asia- Pacific desk, said that while they feared this was a possibility, nothing had happened since the “Garden of Freedoms” campaign was launched.
“The last hacking attack on the RSF Web site dates back to August 2008 and the site remains blocked [in China],” he said. “If an attack occurs, we hope our host will be able to assist us.”
Sunday, April 25, 2010
Simultaneously, Hong Kong was the main platform where both the British and Chinese governments could conduct dialogue and, as 1997 approached, a source of much-needed capital and an instrument to test special administrative rule.
This, and much more, is the focus of former Hong Kong legislator Christine Loh’s (陸恭蕙) fascinating Underground Front: The Chinese Communist Party in Hong Kong. The amount of information contained in her well-researched book makes it an extremely useful tool to understand the CCP’s policies in Hong Kong.
Loh walks us through what she sees as the six main phases of CCP relations with Hong Kong: early Marxism in Hong Kong; the early years of CCP rule in China; the Cultural Revolution; the Deng Xiaoping (鄧小平) era; the post-Tiananmen Square Massacre era; and the first decade after retrocession.
Throughout this time — and even after Hong Kong became a special administrative region — we see the CCP acting as if it were a criminal organization forced to remain underground. Part of this, we learn, is the result of Maoism’s lack of mass appeal in Hong Kong, which since the Treaty of Nanjing in 1842 had been ideologically shaped by the British.
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
After a lull in such efforts for the greater part of former president Chen Shui-bian’s (陳水扁) administration, Beijing reignited its drive following the election of the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) as Taiwanese president.
Despite a series of agreements signed since Ma came into office in May 2008, by far the most consequential item in Beijing’s instruments of unification is the proposed economic cooperation framework agreement (ECFA), which could be signed as early as late next month or in June.
In its approach for the trade deal, Beijing has acted in ways that are strikingly reminiscent of the process surrounding attempts to pass Article 23 of the Basic Law in Hong Kong. Both the content and the manner in which Beijing and the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) authorities attempted to pass the bill were controversial. Among others, the bill contained provisions on national security that threatened to blur the lines between Hong Kong’s special semiautonomous status and that of China, and Beijing’s Liaison Office in the territory seriously underestimated the level of opposition to the proposed legislation.
Saturday, April 17, 2010
The allegation came in the wake of charges against Tsay following a protest at the Legislative Yuan on Sept. 8 last year, when he was alleged by police to have obstructed their work and thrown himself onto a vehicle.
In a police video, Tsay is seen being blocked by five police officers in front of the legislative building. At 4:08pm Tsay briefly collides with a vehicle driving through the legislature gates. Off balance as he seeks to avoid contact with police, his back and hand come into contact with the vehicle for less than a second, whereupon two officers pull him away.
Tsay and about 20 other people continued the protest and at 4:20pm he was bumped by another vehicle leaving the legislature, after which he was manhandled by police and a melee ensued. He was eventually taken away.
Tsay told a press conference on Tuesday that his intention that day was to petition the legislature to lower the threshold for referendums, but that dozens of police officers blocked his access to the building. The video corroborates his claim.
“They didn’t have a warrant and had no cause to take him in,” Tsay’s counsel Billy Chen Da-cheng (陳達成) told the Taipei Times on Thursday. “This is the Legislative Yuan. There’s no need to apply for a permit to be there.”
Chen said that while footage shot by police, as well as 64 pictures, was submitted to the court, the judge relied solely on witnesses — police officers, as well as the driver of the vehicle with which Tsay collided at 4:08pm — to support the charges.
Wednesday, April 14, 2010
“For the time being, we will continue to support the Taiwan Solidarity Union’s [TSU] signature drive for an ECFA referendum,” Tsay Ting-kuei (蔡丁貴), convener of the Taiwan Referendum Alliance, told the Taipei Times yesterday.
“However, we think the first stage of the TSU to submit the petition signatures will come too late, as the date [for doing so] has been set for April 25,” he said.
Although Tsay said it would be nice to see the TSU petition for a referendum passed by the Central Election Committee and for the second stage of the petition process to begin, “we do not anticipate this will happen under the current atmosphere created by [President] Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration.”
“We are prepared to convey a proposal to the Democratic Progressive Party, which is expected to hold a rally against an ECFA on May 20, the second anniversary of Ma’s inauguration,” Tsay said. “Our proposal is that the rally request the Legislative Yuan and/or Ma to respond to a resolution for an ECFA referendum in accordance with the Referendum Act [公民投票法], rather than just dismiss the rally at the end of the day.”
Tsay said his group was prepared to apply continuous pressure on the legislature and the Ma administration by holding rallies of between 5,000 and 10,000 protesters a day around the legislature.
Since the notification, and especially in the wake of the announcement of a US$6.4 billion US arms sale to Taiwan earlier this year, there had been speculation that Beijing would pressure Boeing Co, the manufacturer of the AH-64, into canceling the deal.
Boeing, which merged with McDonnell Douglas in 1997, was among the US firms singled out by Beijing as facing potential retaliatory sanctions for participating in the deal. It also sold Taiwan US$37 million in Harpoon training missiles.
A letter of offer and acceptance was signed last year between Taipei and Washington and a joint US government- Boeing team is expected to visit Taipei in the middle of next month to finalize the deal, the magazine reported, citing sources in the Taiwanese and US defense industries.
The helicopters are armed with Stinger air-to-air missiles and AGM-114L Longbow Hellfire missiles and are part of efforts by the Taiwanese Army to modernize its aviation capabilities.
US-Taiwan Business Council president Rupert Hammond-Chambers told Defense News there was no reason to “believe that the first of the Apaches won’t start arriving [in] late 2012 [or] early 2013 as ordered.”
“While China’s position on arms sales [to Taiwan] is well-known, the position of all contracting parties is this is a government-to-government sale ... [and] therefore there is no reason to believe that Boeing would not follow through on a transaction/order from the US Army irrespective of any pressure China may try to bring,” he said.
While Hammond-Chambers said he was unaware of pressure from Beijing regarding the helicopter sale, a local US defense industry source told Defense News that “I can ... guarantee that Boeing is getting heat in Beijing.”
In September last year, Boeing said China would require 3,770 new airplanes valued at about US$400 billion over the next 20 years. Boeing and its European rival Airbus are vying for a share of that market.
Friday, April 09, 2010
In a March 31 story, the Taipei Times quoted a report from the office of Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Pan Meng-an (潘孟安) that alleged current shareholders at China Strategic Holdings Ltd (中策集團) — part of a consortium bidding for Nan Shan — included two Hong Kong stock traders who were fined by the SFC for “rampant speculation” and another who was indicted by the commission, also for speculation.
The three individuals are:
Ren Dezhang (任德章, Cantonese: Yam Tak Cheung), a Hong Kong stock trader who was fined by the SFC for speculation. He holds HK$400 million (US$51.5 million) in bonds and a 5.1 percent share of China Strategic.
In the “Successful prosecutions — disclosure of interests” of its annual 2007-2008 report, the SFC lists Ren as being convicted on April 26, 2007, and fined HK$1,500 plus HK$6,000 for investigation costs.
Zhen Zhiping (甄志平, Cantonese: Yan Chi Ping ) a Hong Kong stock trader, was sanctioned by the SFC for speculation in 2002. He holds HK$120 million in bonds and a 1.5 percent share of China Strategic.
Documents provided by the SFC show that Zhen was suspended for four months from Nov. 18, 2005, to March 17, 2006, for deceiving his employer, Get Nice Investment Ltd (結好投資).
“An SFC investigation found that Yan [Zhen] had acted dishonestly in conducting his own securities trading, without his employer knowing, through an account opened in the name of his friend, and in the process, earning bonuses from his employer to which he was not entitled,” the document says.
Through trading in his friend’s account between January 2002 and March 2003, Zhen received about HK$260,000 in bonuses.
The SFC said Zhen was guilty of misconduct and his fitness and probity were called into question.
Gu Baoshun (谷保順, Cantonese: Kuk Po Shun), a Hong Kong stock speculator, was indicted by the SFC for speculation in 2004 and later confessed. He holds HK$107 million in bonds and a 1.4 percent share of China Strategic.
In a Nov. 25, 2004, press release entitled “Failure to disclose interests results in prosecution,” the SFC reported that “Kuk Po Shun [Gu] pleaded guilty to breaching Part XV of the Securities and Futures Ordinance by failing to disclose, to HKEx and FT Holdings International Ltd (星采控股), his interests in shares in FT Holdings and his subsequent reduction in those interests.” Gu was fined HK$10,000 and ordered to pay the SFC’s investigation costs.
In October, a consortium formed by China Strategic and Primus Financial Holdings Ltd (博智金控) reached an agreement with American International Group Inc to acquire the US company’s 97.57 percent stake in Nan Shan for USS$2.15 billion.
However, concerns have since mounted in Taiwan over whether the consortium is backed by Chinese money and if major shareholders in the consortium are qualified to own shares in a Taiwanese insurance firm, given the above list of activities, including forgery, perjury, embezzlement and breach of trust.
This recently became a subject of dispute as the Insurance Act (保險法) does not specify criteria for reviewing shareholder eligibility or define the term “major shareholders.” Taiwan’s Financial Supervisory Commission said in February that it was working on amendments to the Act, which it hoped the Cabinet would approve in time for the review of the Nan Shan case.
Meanwhile, checks with Canadian intelligence could not confirm speculation, reported in the China Times on Oct. 21 last year, that Shandong-born Xiao Jianhua (肖建華), a Chinese stock trader who is allegedly leading the bid for Nan Shan, is in Canada. In its report, Pan’s office alleged that Xiao is on the run following involvement in two cases of stock speculation and insider trading, including Zhejiang Financial Holdings and Pacific Security.
Thursday, April 01, 2010
The problems began last Thursday, when some journalists in Taiwan and China found they were unable to access their Yahoo e-mail accounts.
One Taiwan-based target of the apparent attack told the Taipei Times on Monday that his e-mail account had been “hacked” the previous Wednesday or Thursday, adding that his passwords were changed.
The Taipei Times has since learned that two of its former employees, who still work in the news industry, were among those targeted.
“When I first tried to log onto my account and was denied I got a message that said: ‘Important Message About Your Yahoo! Account. We have detected an issue with your account. To access your account, you must contact Yahoo! Customer Care,’” the journalist told the Taipei Times on condition of anonymity for fear of being the target of renewed attacks.
“They then misspelled the US as ‘Unites States,’ which concerned me because I know that Chinese hackers sometimes send fake messages like this and often misspell words,” he said.
“It was Yahoo that decided to shut down accounts that were being targeted. They [hackers] were poking around Yahoo looking at our account information. Someone in Yahoo raised the red flag and they locked the accounts down,” the reporter said.
“Despite the fact that Yahoo is getting some criticism for not being secure enough ... I think it’s fair to say they were wise enough to protect their customers from an attack. But they should explain it further. There were too many of us who were hit to write it off as a coincidence,” he said.
“It is evident that whomever was behind the attacks, whether government or individuals, it originated most likely in China,” he said.
A current employee at the Taipei Times received a similar warning last Friday, informing her that there were signs of “unauthorized access” in her account, which could only be reactivated on Tuesday after a verification telephone call and change of passwords. Yahoo apologized to the user for the delay, saying it had received “unusually high volumes” of alerts.