Thursday, August 08, 2013

An underworld role in Taiwan’s military scandal?

Protest material in front of Ministry of National Defense
People close to a prominent gangster have come out publicly supporting an unyielding response from the military to the Hung Chung-chiu scandal

As the controversy over the July 4 death of Hung Chung-chiu (洪仲丘) and the subsequent resignation of two ministers of national defense within a week continues, another aspect of the crisis that hasn’t received enough attention is the possible exploitation of the situation by groups and individuals who actively seek the unification of Taiwan and China.

Whether those individuals are acting on their own, or at the direction of the Chinese Communist Party is hard to demonstrate at this point, though I have been suspecting from the onset that United Front work is somehow involved in the spiraling controversy.

While Andrew Yang’s (楊念祖) resignation was the big news item on Aug. 6, two things that occurred earlier in the day went largely unnoticed, though I firmly believe that both warrant closer scrutiny.

The first item was ex-convict and debt collector Tung Nien-tai’s (董念台) filing a lawsuit against Citizen 1985, the group behind two large protests held in recent weeks over the Hung case, and Hung Tzu-yung (洪慈庸), the soldier’s sister. Tung accused Hung Tzu-yung and Citizen 1985 of inciting hatred towards the government and the armed forces (he field another lawsuit on Aug. 8, this time accusing Citizen 1985 of fraud).

Just as Tung was filing his first lawsuit on Tuesday, Kuo Kuan-ying (郭冠英), a former press officer at the TECRO office in Toronto who was pulled back to Taipei (and eventually fired) in 2009 after it was revealed that he was the author of several vicious op-eds targeted at Taiwanese, weighed in with an interview in which he argued that the military should never apologize for the death of soldiers like Hung.

In and of itself, Tung and Kuo should be dismissed as marginal creatures seeking attention in a time of crisis. But here’s where things get interesting: it is well known that Kuo is actively involved with the Unionist Party, the pro-unification political party founded by Bamboo Union gangster Chang An-le (張安樂), who fled to China in the mid-1990s and returned to Taiwan in late June. As I mentioned in a recent article about my visit to Chang’s party headquarters, the UP has very intimate ties with senior CCP officials and is indisputably involved in United Front in Taiwan on Beijing’s behalf.

Here’s something else that’s rather interesting: Aside from his failed attempt to court then-vice president Annette Lu (呂秀蓮), Tung, whom I met at a TFCC event in April 2008, is widely known in Taiwan as an “unofficial spokesman” for the underworld and for his efforts to help gangsters re-integrate society. When Chang, also known as “White Wolf,” returned to Taiwan in June 29, who else but Tung came out and said that the public should not be too quick to judge people who involved themselves in gangster activities, adding that Chang had been “young and frivolous” and that not all murder suspects are bad individuals.

Now, while I have been unable to draw a direct link between Tung and Chang or his party, I find it extremely difficult to regard his decision to sue Hung and Citizen 1985 on the same day as Kuo came out firing from the hip as a simple coincidence. Tung has every right to defend ex-convicts’ rights, but how do we explain his sudden involvement in matters of national security? And all of this happens at a time when Chang is free on bail, actively promoting his “peaceful unification” platform.

This is all circumstantial, but to me this screams efforts by pro-unification forces in Taiwan to curry favor with more conservative — and perhaps pro-China — elements within the military. A pro-unification party in Taiwan could certainly benefit from the support of senior members of the armed forces. Moreover, by encouraging intransigence at the top, Kuo, Tung and Chang would help fuel public resentment towards the military and thus further weaken morale in the troops and the armed forces’ ability to attract recruits. How else can we explain “support” by the pro-unification camp for an institution whose principal raison d’etre is, after all, to defend Taiwan against China?

I won’t go as far as to claim that the underworld, or even United Front workers manufactured the whole Hung mess. But it is very likely that they will seek to exploit the current situation to their benefit. (Photo by the author)

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