Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Wu Chang-yu: A classic Chinese intelligence operation

The case of a Central Police University associate professor who was arrested for spying for China follows a pattern that is strangely familiar

Central Police University associate professor Wu Chang-yu (吳彰裕) was arrested last week for providing China’s Ministry of Public Security with information on the movement of Chinese dissidents in Taiwan.

According to investigators, Wu ordered Lin Bo-hong (林柏宏), a section supervisor, and Wu Dong-lin (吳東霖), an officer at the Hsinchu County police bureau’s international affairs office, to collect the entry and exit records of targeted individuals, which reportedly included Falun Gong practitioners and democracy activists. Lin and Wu Dong-lin are former students of Wu Chang-yu who, interestingly, also happens to be a feng shui master and was a fortuneteller to both former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) and President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九). (Ma has named Wu one of Taiwan’s three “national fortunetellers.”)

Wu’s recruitment by the Chinese intelligence apparatus followed the usual script. Wu reportedly went to China on an academic exchange in 2008. After his return to Taiwan, the MPS reportedly contacted him and asked that he provide them with customs data and information on the movement of persons of interest. If previous cases of recruitment serve as any indication, Wu, who is also a visiting professor in religion at several Chinese universities, including Sichuan University and Xiamen University, would have been approached — and recruited — while in China. Sources have told the Chinese-language United Daily News that Wu made frequent visits to China and that he had been offered fortunetelling business opportunities in China in exchange for providing information to the MPS.

As with previous cases of sources working for Chinese intelligence, Wu claims he is innocent and that the information he passed on to the Chinese was purely academic. “The data is just for the research of Chinese academic institutions without any intention on my part of leaking national secrets,” he told Taiwanese investigators, who learned of his leaks to China from his notebooks.

This follows the pattern set by individuals such as Peter Lee, Min Guo-bao, Lee Wen-ho (李文和) and several others, all academics who ran afoul of the FBI in recent decades for providing Chinese intelligence with military secrets for the sake of academic exchange. Wu, a PhD in politics, didn’t pass on military secrets, but what he gave the MPS concerns public security — especially when Chinese law regards Falun Gong practitioners, Tibetans, pro-democracy activists and Chinese dissidents as criminals and “terrorists.”

While drafting a joint cross-strait crime-fighting agreement (officially known as the Agreement on Jointly Cracking Down on Crime and Mutual Legal Assistance Across the Strait, 海峽兩岸共同打擊犯罪及司法互助協議), Taiwanese and Chinese law enforcement authorities ran into disagreements over the definition of such activities, with Taipei refusing to cooperate (such as providing lists of individuals) when Beijing requested information on “terrorist” and “separatist” suspects.

Unable to secure Taipei’s help, the MPS simply turned to willing individuals like Wu and his accomplices.

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