Counterintelligence bill back on table to fight Chinese spies

Bill proposed to counter presence of 5,000 Chinese spies in Taiwanese military and government

Chinese propaganda poster calling for "liberation" of Taiwan (Image by flickr user HI TRICIA! 王 圣 捷)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) -- In response to media reports that over 5,000 Chinese spies have infiltrated Taiwan's military and government, Democratic Progressive Party legislators yesterday proposed revisiting a shelved counterintelligence bill, but pledged that an oversight committee would be implemented to keep the national security agency in check. 

The DPP caucus, represented by legislators Lo Chih-cheng (羅致政), Chen Ming-wen (陳明文) and Chuang Jui-hsiung (莊瑞雄), at a press conference yesterday called on the government to enact counterespionage legislation to address revelations by a security official who stated that there are 5,000 Chinese spies in the military and government.

The official, who spoke to the Chinese language Liberty times on the condition of anonymity, said 90 percent of known cases of espionage involved spying on the military, however the number of cases in the government is probably a lot higher, but are not being reported due to a lack of the ability to detect such intrusions.

Lo said that though some have suggested strengthening the existing National Security Act, he recommended reintroducing the counterintelligence act, which had just been rejected by the cabinet last week, to have an integrated strategy that will include the Investigation Bureau, military intelligence, political warfare, police departments and other related organs. 

Currently, an administrative order, The Regulations over Public Security Operations (保防工作作業要點), is only legal provision authorizing counterintelligence activities, said Lo. 

Lo added "Without counterintelligence legislation that has higher legal powers, intelligence agencies can bypass proper oversight. Only legislation can set clear standards, protect human rights, and dictate what can and cannot be done.”

The draft of the bill had proposed increasing the penalty for security breaches and would give counterintelligence agents "semi-judicial rights" to investigate suspected spying cases. 

However, the bill had been criticized as potentially giving the government unchecked powers to limit freedom of speech under the guise of national security. The cabinet ultimately rejected the bill last Thursday before releasing the details of the bill to the media. 

Lo suggested that the legislature draft its own version of the the counterintelligence bill to prevent the Cabinet from overextending its reach. He suggested that the bill would not only ensure national security, protection of human rights, and legislative oversight, but it would also set up a legal mechanism to blunt the dissemination of "fake news."