Four individuals from the pro-unification New Party were taken in for questioning in a case that seems to be linked to a spy ring organized by Zhou Hongxu, a Chinese man who was arrested earlier this year.
Investigators today raided the residence of Wang Ping-chung, convener of the pro-unification New Party’s Youth Committee, on suspicions that he may have engaged in activities that compromised national security.
Armed with a warrant, Taipei investigators seized financial documents and took Wang in for questioning. According to reports, the raid is related to Wang’s possible connections with Zhou Hongxu, a former Chinese student who was detained in March this year on suspicions of recruiting people for a spy ring while enrolled at a university in Taiwan. The Taipei District Court in September sentenced Zhou, who reportedly received his directives from Shanghai, to 14 months in prison for violating the National Security Act.
According to investigators, Wang may have assisted Zhou in the recruitment of officials and businesspeople in Taiwan to pass on classified information to China. Wang and Zhou reportedly first made contact during the Sunflower Movement in 2014, which they both opposed. Wang was also a vocal supporter of Zhou after the Chinese was arrested for espionage.
In recent years Wang has also made frequent appearances at rallies and protests organized by the violence-prone China Unification Promotion Party (CUPP), a pro-Beijing party led by gangster-turned-politician Chang An-le (aka, “White Wolf”) which itself, along with the Bamboo Union triad, was the target of police raids earlier this year.
Hou Han-ting, director of the New Party’s think tank and head of the Chinese Revival Society at National Taiwan University; Lin Ming-cheng, a youth member of the New Party; and Chen Si-jun, spokesman for the New Party, were also taken in for interrogation today.
Earlier this month the New Party, which for about a decade has been unable to win a seat in elections, announced it intends to open a liaison office in China.
As he was being taken away, Wang told media that he was the victim of “Green terror,” a reference to the color associated with the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). Later in the afternoon, members of the pro-unification White Justice Alliance, which first emerged at the height of the Sunflower Movement, held a protest outside the police station where Wang was being questioned.
Today’s turn of events has already sparked accusations that the Tsai Ing-wen administration is infringing freedom of speech by targeting individuals who promote unification with China. It will likely also prompt allegations by Beijing that the DPP has launched a “witch hunt” against pro-unification groups.
While every effort should be made to ensure individuals’ freedom of expression in democratic Taiwan — two registered parties, the aforementioned New Party and the CUPP actively promote unification and field candidates in elections, and various organizations regularly hold pro-unification (and sometimes violent) rallies outside Taipei 101 and at Taipei’s Ximending entertainment district — there is a fine line between free speech and other types of behavior such as espionage, co-optation, political warfare, and united front work. Those activities, which China is now orchestrating on a global scale (Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the United States, the U.N. and the Czech Republic are just some of the targets that made headlines recently), are either illegal or exploit “grey zone” vulnerabilities in democratic societies; both threaten the integrity of the state. Such activities need to be properly investigated, and it is understood that Taiwan’s intelligence agencies and prosecutors had gathered enough intelligence and evidence (some collected after Zhou was taken in) for about a year, according to reports, to justify today’s raids (according to new information the KMT government under Ma Ying-jeou was already aware of Wang’s activities). If this is indeed what Wang was engaged in or was facilitating on behalf of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), then he should face the consequences.
Taiwan finally appears to be taking the necessary steps to counter the threat of united front work and political warfare. Today’s targets are likely the low-lying fruit, with others to come.