Taiwan spies use cross-Straits exchanges, mainland think tank meetings to gather intelligence: sources

By Fan Lingzhi , Published: 2020/10/13 22:50:40

Editor's Note:

The Chinese mainland’s state security agency has revealed a series of Taiwan espionage cases to the media as hundreds of such cases have been uncovered recently. And two cases on Taiwan “espionage agencies” using Taiwan scholars to spy on Chinese mainland officials, scholars and journalists showed that the separatist Democratic Progressive Party authority on the island is poisoning people-to-people and academic exchanges.

The Global Times is running a special coverage on the major Taiwan espionage cases unleashed by the state security agency. This is the last part of a three-part series.

Taiwan’s separatist Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) authority has increased its intelligence gathering activities against the Chinese mainland. Sources with the state security agency of the mainland told the Global Times that two Taiwan spies have been detained in the mainland for providing intelligence about mainland officials, think tank experts and journalists to Taiwan intelligence agencies, and for prying the mainland’s internal documents.

Tsai Jin-shu, chairman of the Federation of Southern Taiwan Cross-Straits Associations, was sentenced to four years in prison for spying in July, the Global Times has learned. He was found to have provided intelligence on more than 20 mainland personnel to Taiwan intelligence agents.

A Chinese mainland spokesperson confirmed in September 2019 that Tsai had been under investigation in the mainland since July 2018 on suspicion of engaging in activities that endanger national security.

Since he had studied in the mainland, Tsai has been involved in cross-Straits exchanges since the 1990s, and has built broad connections in the mainland.

Kuo Jia-ying (left) Photo: State security agency

In 2013, Kuo Jia-ying (transliteration), a female employee of Fu Hsing Broadcasting Station (FHBS) of Taiwan, started to get in touch with Tsai, and claimed that she was Tsai’s schoolmate. FHBS is a subsidiary of a Taiwan “military intelligence agency.”

According to Tsai’s confession, Kuo invited him for coffee from time to time and brought him some gifts, like healthcare products, and whenever she knew that he had visited the mainland for a conference, she would call him and ask who he met, and what information he got about the mainland’s policy toward Taiwan.

According to sources with the mainland’s state security agency, Kuo is a spy serving in Taiwan “military intelligence agency.” She funded Tsai’s organization, including paying rent totaling TW$360,000 ($12,600) when it encountered a funding shortage, and provided suggestions to Tsai on how to make exchanges with the mainland guests.

After the separatist DPP took power in the island in 2016, cross-Straits exchanges significantly decreased. Kuo suggested Tsai establish a “pro-mainland” online media and invite mainland scholars and journalists to contribute their articles, so that they could collect intelligence. Kuo gradually seized control over the media.

An anonymous officer of the state security bureau of Xiamen, Fujian Province told the Global Times that Kuo always tried to convince Tsai that everything she wanted from the mainland scholars and journalists was public information rather than classified intelligence, so it won’t cause trouble for Tsai.

In the past few years, Tsai has submitted intelligence on more than 50 mainland officials, scholars and journalists to Taiwan intelligence agencies, and got paid about TW$5 million ($174,428).

Kuo has always requested Tsai to collect internal information from the mainland, and also wanted him to build connections with mainland policymakers on Taiwan affairs. When Tsai got in touch with people in the mainland, he always claimed that he “supports reunification” to reduce suspicion, according to Tsai’s confession.

After Tsai was convicted in July, he expressed remorse. “I have conducted cross-Straits exchanges for more than 20 years, but I didn’t expect that I would be used by the Taiwan ‘military intelligence agency’ to damage national security.”

Scholar or spy?

Shih Cheng-ping is a Taiwan scholar used by the Taiwan intelligence agency. According to sources in the Chinese mainland's state security agency, Shih pried intelligence on the mainland in his capacity as a Taiwan scholar between 2005 and 2018, involving political and economic issues, cross-Straits relations and policies. He obtained data and information on the Belt and Road Initiative and the mainland’s strategy in the Asia-Pacific region by prying, bribing and other material temptations. The hearings on Shih’s case have been completed, and a verdict is pending. A mainland spokesperson confirmed in November that Shih had been detained by mainland authorities and is being investigated for activities endangering national security.

Shih, born in 1960, was a professor at National Taiwan Normal University and had studied in the US, and worked at the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in the US. In 2005, he started to serve in a subsidiary foundation under the “national security bureau” of Taiwan and built connection with the bureau’s spy Chou Sheng-yu (transliteration).

In 2010, when Shih was invited to attend an academic event organized by a mainland sci-tech institute, he took photos of all the documents at a hotel, and sent them back to the Taiwan intelligence agency. Since 2010, every time Shih attended conferences in the mainland, he would bring information and documents to Chou in a USB flash disk. Since Shih’s father was persecuted by Taiwan espionage agencies, Shih also felt very worried.

Shih had attended more than 30 conferences in the mainland and every time he brought information back to Chou, Shih would get paid.

Shih also used his connections in the mainland to introduce Chou to senior figures in think tanks in the mainland.

According to the state security agency of the mainland, although the intelligence and messages collected by Shih and Tsai appear to be public information and fragmented, they could turn into meaningful information by Taiwan intelligence agencies. So if they get hold of the information, mainland policies would be affected. Thus, Shih and Tsai’s activities are harmful as well.

Sources at the mainland state security agency also said that the means used by Taiwan spies like Tsai and Shih were very sophisticated. They tend to avoid collecting classified information to evade mainland law enforcement staff. Instead, they pry inside information by asking and taking notes personally.

Li Peng, a mainland expert on Taiwan affairs at Xiamen University, said that the academic exchanges between the two sides of the Taiwan Straits should be clean and secure, but “the DPP authority’s behavior has ruined the rules and polluted the atmosphere of cross-Straits academic exchanges. We hope the Taiwan DPP authority and its leader Tsai Ing-wen would stop these irresponsible actions, and foster a clean environment for cross-Straits academic exchanges.”