Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Two more Taiwanese officials indicted for spying

An ex-NSB officer and a former psychological warfare specialist were caught trying to pass sensitive information to Chinese intelligence

Revelations of recruitment of Taiwanese by Chinese intelligence seem to have settled into a comfortable frequency, with arrests or indictments being made on an almost monthly basis now.

A little more than a month after an Air Force captain was caught passing on classified information about Taiwan’s air defense systems to China via his uncle — a businessman in China — two former intelligence officers were charged on Monday and indicted today on charges of collecting sensitive information for China.

According to the indictment, Tsai Kuo-bin (蔡國賓), 65, a former captain at the National Security Bureau (NSB), had spied for China for several years, and visited China on a number of occasions between 2007 and 2010. He is suspected of trying to acquire, and to have delivered, information on Taiwanese intelligence and Ministry of Justice Investigation Bureau (MJIB) personnel, domestic politics, cross-strait relations, and the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT). China is said to have paid Tsai a total sum of NT$620,000 (US$20,000) for his efforts. 

According to the charges, Tsai was recruited by the Public Security Bureau (PSB) in Fujian Province. At the time of his retirement in 1994, Tsai was head of a unit at the NSB gathering cultural and educational intelligence on China.

Prosecutors said Tsai also recruited the 63-year-old Wang Wei-ya (王維亞), a former officer at the Ministry of National Defense’s General Political Warfare Department, and asked him to acquire a book — 情報生涯30年 — containing classified information about 30 years of Taiwanese intelligence, which was banned before it could be published. Interestingly, after retiring from the military in 1994, Wang, by then a major, worked at the KMT Mainland Affairs Department, where he focused on psychological warfare and intelligence-gathering until 2006.

Tsai and Wang, who were arrested in September last year, face a maximum jail term of five years.


Michael Fagan said...

A question if I may: when was the last time you heard of a Chinese intelligence officer being arrested and/or tried in China for gathering intel or counter-intel for Taiwan?

Michael Fagan said...

No answer.

Well, the relatively trivial sum of money paid to these two moles would seem to incidicate that their defection was motivated either by threat (e.g. against their families) or by ideological persuasion.

Threat is one thing, but ideological persuasion is another and far more interesting. One would think that, since Taiwan is so unlike China in that it is a wonderful democracy (where the people can actually vote for differently coloured versions of the "public interest" banner under which their properties can be confiscated), many Chinese intelligence officers would be only too eager to defect to Taiwan.

Hence my question.

J. Michael Cole 寇謐將 said...

@Mike: You need to show a bit of patience as you await responses from me. I'm running around most of the time, and my blog isn't exactly at the top of my priority list.

Last time I heard of someone linked to Taiwanese intelligence being arrested in China was in August last year. A retired official surnamed Wu. Wo Weihan, who was executed, also comes to mind as a somewhat recent example.

A lot of Taiwanese businesspeople recruited by Taiwanese intelligence were arrested over the years. Now, I guess this is all contingent on how the PRC defines espionage, a net that in many ways is much wider than the definition used here in Taiwan, or in the West.

Another thing is that such arrests probably do not get as much publicity in China as they do in Taiwan. In other words, several arrests probably go unreported in Chinese media.

To answer your second question: Based on my research and interviews I've accessed with Taiwanese arrested for spying for the PRC, ideology, rather than money (or sex), appears to be the overarching principle. In most instances, the agent's definition of "the enemy" was blurred, which made it easier for them to rationalize their actions and to see it as something other than what, in the traditional sense of the word, constituted treason.

To use an example from my past in that funny world called intelligence, I’d say this is analogous to, say, a Canadian intelligence officer passing on, via unofficial channels, classified information to, say, BSIS, or ASIO. While this is against the law, the perception is that this isn’t as bad as, say, giving the same intelligence to Iranian intelligence, Cuba, or China.