TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — A woman who purchased the book, “If China Attacks,” from Eslite Bookstore in February reported receiving a scam call on Saturday (May 13) promoting Chinese propaganda.
Yang Hsin-tzu (楊欣慈), deputy executive secretary of the non-profit, Here I Stand Project, shared her experience along with videos of her interaction with the caller on social media. She wrote that on Saturday afternoon at around 3:30 p.m., she missed two “strange calls” with the country code +28. At around 7 p.m., the number called again, and she picked up.
“The voice was female, and from the beginning, she spoke in a very diffident tone,” Yang wrote. The caller claimed to be a representative of Eslite Bookstore wanting to do a survey following Yang’s February purchase of the book “If China Attacks.”
When Yang asked what the survey was about, the caller replied, “The book you bought contains very sensitive content … This book’s content is inappropriate, so I wish to hear your opinion.”
Yang wrote that despite the caller’s Taiwanese-like accent, it became apparent to her that she was not truly a Taiwanese native. “At that moment, I was both nervous and excited, not wanting to miss the chance to face-off directly with Chinese communists.”
After asking the caller to call back after she readies herself with the book, Yang prepared to record the call. A man spoke to her in the follow-up call claiming to be from Eslite Bookstore’s marketing department.
A scammer and Chinese propagandist claims he is a representative from Eslite Bookstore's marketing department. (Youtube, Yang Hsin-tzu video)
Yang wrote that the second caller had “super poor acting skills” and “did not bother to hide his stance.” As soon as the “survey” began, he said, “China has strong military prowess, there is no way Taiwan will come out victorious.”
In their conversation, the man repeatedly claimed that “the U.S. won’t help,” “Taiwanese soldiers are afraid of war,” and “Kuomintang (KMT) is better.” He also declared, “the unification of Taiwan is inevitable, voting for the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) will result in unification by force, and voting for the KMT will result in peaceful unification and one country, two systems!”
The man also argued with Yang about her nationality, claiming that she is Chinese despite having been born and raised in Taiwan. “Taiwan is an inalienable part of China's territory,” he said, telling Yang her view of Taiwan as its own country “is no good.”
Yang debates with the scam caller on cross-strait issues. (Youtube, Yang Hsin-tzu video)
In a press conference held by the Taiwan Statebuilding Party (TSP) on Sunday (May 14), Yang said though it is common knowledge that scammers are rampant and often target online shoppers, “This time, they weren’t trying to scam me for my money, they were trying to conduct cognitive warfare with me, trying to find out Taiwan’s public opinion and Taiwanese’s thoughts about the book.” She said though some may find the incident nothing but funny, Eslite Bookstore should address why its customers’ personal information would be leaked to China.
TSP member Wu Hsin-tai (吳欣岱) dubbed the incident not a scam but brainwashing. She warned that though people may think the scam call was very obvious and a bad attempt, “Usually, at the beginning of marketing campaigns, there is always a margin of error with the target audience. However, as mistakes are made with the target audience, gradually it will become more and more precise.”
She added that while propagandists called readers of "If China Attacks" in this incident, in the future, they may be calling readers of pro-China books. With these readers, the brainwashing may possibly work.
Wu urged the DPP to investigate China’s connection behind such incidents before the propagandists’ methods mature and put a stop to them.
Meanwhile, UDN cited Eslite Bookstore as responding to the issue by saying it will “continue reinforcing cyber security defense and regularly remind consumers.”
The Administration for Digital Industries on Sunday issued a press release saying that it will summon Eslite Bookstore representatives to explain its cyber security issues on Monday (May 15). After reviewing relevant information, it will determine whether the company’s personal data protection measures meet official requirements.
Yang displays the scam caller's number with the country code +28. (Youtube, Yang Hsin-tzu screenshot)