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22 Taiwanese investigated for paid trips to China to sway voters

140 Taiwanese voters taken on tours to 5 Chinese provinces, told to support pan-blue camp

36-member Taiwanese delegation that visited Henan Province in November. (TAO photo)

36-member Taiwanese delegation that visited Henan Province in November. (TAO photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Prosecutors are investigating 22 people for taking trips to China that are intended to sway voters toward pro-Beijing candidates.

The Kaohsiung Ciaotou Prosecutors’ Office suspects the China Pan-Blue Association recruited members to go on trips to China funded by Beijing's Taiwan Affairs Office (TAO), reported Liberty Times. Prosecutors suspect that once in China, the members were encouraged to vote for pro-Beijing candidates in the 2024 Taiwanese presidential elections.

Prosecutors summoned 22 people, including six former and current borough chiefs. After questioning the suspects, prosecutors believe that a man surnamed Cheng (鄭) and a woman, surnamed Yeh (葉) recruited the participants in the trips.

They are being investigated for breaching the Anti-Infiltration Act (反滲透法), the Presidential and Vice Presidential Election and Recall Act (總統副總統選舉罷免法) and the Public Officials Election and Recall Act (公職人員選舉罷免法).

Cheng was released on NT$150,000 (US$4,800) bail, while Yeh was released on NT$50,000 bail. Both are barred from leaving Taiwan, while the other 20 suspects are still under investigation.

It was found that Cheng is the younger brother of former New Party Legislator Cheng Lung-shui (鄭龍水) and a member of the China Pan-Blue Association. This year, he has been coordinating with TAO officials to recruit members to take part in trips to China.

China reportedly informed Cheng that participating members should have a "specific political inclination." Cheng recruited members through social media networks.

From May 7 to Oct. 28, Cheng recruited five groups to take part in tours of Shandong Province, Shanxi Province, Inner Mongolia, Xinjiang Province, and Henan Province. About 140 members took part in these trips to China.

The travel itinerary was reportedly arranged with the assistance of the TAO, which fully funded the meals, accommodations, and visiting itinerary with accompanying officials.

During these tours, personnel from TAO and the United Front Work Department would be present and allegedly deliver speeches that called on participants to "support the pan-blue camp," "remove the Democratic Progressive Party," "support the 1992 Consensus," and subscribe to the notion that "both sides of the Taiwan Strait are one family."

Among the 20 members summoned, one is a borough chief registered in Tainan City, while another five are former borough chiefs from Kaohsiung City. Prosecutors found that due to recent rumors TAO has organized tours across the country, some of the incumbent borough chiefs who were invited considered the timing sensitive and withdrew from the tours.