How Many More?
Taipei Arrests 2 Alleged Chinese Spies
By WENDELL MINNICK
TAIPEI — As the new spy movie “Lust, Caution” opened last week in Taipei, Taiwan-born director Ang Lee could not have picked a better time to open the erotic thriller about Chinese espionage.
Lin Yu-nung, 54, an agent assigned to the Economic Crime Prevention and Control Center at the Taiwanese Ministry of Justice’s Investigation Bureau (MJIB), and Chen Chih-kao, 55, a retired MJIB agent who left the bureau in 1997 to work in Shanghai, were taken into custody on Sept. 23. Both were charged in Taipei District Court with corruption and violations of the National Security Law and the National Intelligence Services Act.
According to reports, MJIB officers arrested both men at the Brother Hotel, where confidential files and a $3,000 check signed over to Lin were discovered.
Sources say Chen was recruited by Chinese intelligence after his business dealings began to fail. Surveillance began in 2005 after an MJIB agent turned down Chen’s offers to buy information and alerted bureau officials.
Lin and Chen were collecting data on MJIB personnel appointments and information about a recent crackdown on economic crimes, MJIB officials said.
Both men denied spying for China, saying they were simply studying MJIB internal data.
The MJIB is now trying to figure out what Lin might have given China over the past two years.
‘Counterintel System Works’
A U.S. defense analyst familiar with Taiwan’s intelligence community said the arrests were a good sign.
“A case like this is not unusual,” the analyst said. “It is a positive thing for one, this guy to be arrested — means the counterintel system works; and two, for an MJIB authority to do a presumably planned disclosure to media — it obviously was meant to be leaked to send a notice out.”
He said there are many more arrests for spying or illegal technology transfer that are kept quiet as part of ongoing counterintelligence efforts.
Lin Chong-Pin, president of the Taipei-based Foundation on International and Cross-Strait Studies and a former Taiwan deputy minister of defense, said China’s spies are taking advantage of Taiwan’s political quarrels.
“The incentives Beijing uses these days are not just money, sex, but the political disaffection among some of the population,” he said.
Lin said there may be more than 5,000 Chinese spies in Taiwan.
“After all, China has been working on it [for] over half a century,” Lin said. “The CCP [Chinese Communist Party], ever since the days of the Civil War in the 1940s, has been masters in planting spies in the KMT/ROC [Taiwan] government, which at least partly explained the tremendous pace and momentum in how the Nationalists lost the mainland after their ‘victory’ over the Japanese.”
He said he had heard “horror stories” about information thefts.
“Basically, if one wants to keep any info from leaking, one almost has to hand-carry the document oneself, and limit the knowledge of the document to only the most trustworthy,” Lin said.
Some officials in Washington may try to use the arrests to undermine plans to sell U.S.-built arms to Taipei, the U.S. analyst said, although no government is immune to penetration.
Spying for China
Previous high-profile espionage arrests in Taiwan include:
December 2003: Huang Chen-an, 55, for providing China classified information about the new Wan Chien (10,000 Swords) cluster bomb and the electronic parameters of the Po Sheng (Broad Victory) C4ISR program. Huang, who worked for the Missile and Rocket System Research Division of the military-run Chungshan Institute of Science and Technology (CSIST), was recruited by a mainland Chinese woman he married and later divorced. In the 10 years she lived in Taiwan, she married and divorced three different CSIST employees.
August 2003: Chen Shih-liang, section chief of CSIST’s Electronic Research Institute, was accused of selling data from military programs to China, leading to a CSIST ban on mobile phones with cameras.
2000: Taiwan’s coast guard captured a boat off southern Taiwan that was registered in Pingtan, China, and was carrying five alleged members of China’s Ministry of State Security. Taiwan officials also discovered surveillance equipment and more than 100 photos of Taiwan military facilities along the coast. The men were later released and returned to China.