The arrest in mainland China a little over three weeks ago of a citizen of Taiwan poses a significant challenge to relations between the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and the Republic of China (ROC or Taiwan). The arrest also reasserts the PRC’s claim to control what information may reach the Chinese people, no matter how dangerous such a policy might be.
Chung Ting-pang was ready to return to Taiwan after visiting family members in southeastern China’s Jiangxi Province when security police arrested him at Ganzhou airport on June 18. His family in Taiwan has not heard a single word from him since.
Chung is a manager in a high tech company in Taiwan. He is also a Falun Gong practitioner. Falun Gong is a spiritual practice that has been severely persecuted in mainland China since 1999 but is legal and popular in Taiwan.
A look at the charges against Chung suggests he may have been wrongfully accused. The Chinese authorities first claimed he was arrested “to help with the investigation of Falun Gong.” Then, the charge was changed.
The regime-mouthpiece Xinhua News Agency reported that Chung allegedly collected several secret documents through mainland Chinese residents; mailed equipment for tapping into mainland China’s cable TV; instigated mainland residents to engage in the destruction of broadcasting facilities; and used professional equipment to attack the transmission of mainland satellite TV signals.
None of these charges holds water.
As a Falun Gong practitioner, the only CCP documents that could interest him are the instructions to persecute Falun Gong. That the persecution of Falun Gong has no legal basis is well known—the CCP has to use internal memos and Party documents to carry out the persecution. An investigation of this charge will prove that the persecution of Falun Gong is not the implementation of law but simply the Party’s policy.
As for mailing the equipment for tapping into cable TV, this charge seems even less credible.
Tapping into a cable system is not a high-tech thing. It doesn’t need special equipment. The first cable tapping in 2002 in Changchun used a regular DVD (or VCD) player and a cable cutter to connect the player to the cable.
There is no such thing as “equipment for tapping into cable TV.” China is the largest manufacturer of such regular electronic equipment, and getting those players and tools is easier in mainland China than in Taiwan. If someone can get the equipment from the store next door, why bother to mail it from Taiwan?
The charge that Chung instigated mainland residents to engage in the destruction of broadcasting facilities apparently refers to him urging those in the mainland to use DVD players and cable cutters to tap into the cable TV network.
The fact that Chung is in police custody says nothing about whether he actually did this. When did the CCP ever tell the truth?
But if Chung urged others to tap into the mainland’s cable TV network, and he was in Taiwan when he did so, is this a crime? In such a situation, Chung would be governed by Taiwan’s law, not by the PRC’s law. Does Taiwan have a law making it illegal to discuss with someone in another country tapping into a cable TV network?
Regarding the final accusation, there has been no report that the transmission of PRC satellite TV signals has ever been attacked or intercepted, although the Chinese regime is notorious for intercepting independent TV and radio broadcasting signals from outside China that offer something other than the regime-approved opinions.
Xinhua knew the charges against Chung would not stand examination, which is why its report failed to mention that Chung is a Falun Gong practitioner.
If Xinhua had revealed that Chung was a practitioner, most people would immediately think the charges brought against him were simply more of the false propaganda the regime has broadcast over the years.
Even those who have been deceived by the anti-Falun Gong propaganda would think the Chung case simply involves another dispute between the regime and Falun Gong.
No one would accept the charges at face value. The regime’s credibility is at its lowest point, especially since the events of this spring, which included the scandals surrounding former Party heavyweight Bo Xilai.
The signing of the Cross-Strait Investment Protection Agreement has been promised for months but postponed many times. Recent news reports suggested the long-delayed signing was imminent—and then Chung was arrested.
The legal issues raised by Chung’s arrest really bother the Taiwan people and government. If a Taiwan businessman can be charged in the PRC for actions he took in Taiwan, who is safe in mainland China?
The legal situation regarding the relations of the PRC and Taiwan is unique in both countries.
The ROC, which now governs the island of Taiwan only, once governed mainland China, and Taiwan’s constitution and law still claim to cover both Taiwan and mainland China. Of course, this claim is only on paper and can’t be enforced on the mainland.
On the other side, although the PRC claims that there is only one China and Taiwan is one of its provinces, the constitution and law of the PRC have never extended to Taiwan.
If Chung can be apprehended under PRC law for actions he took in Taiwan, his case poses serious problems for Taiwan’s sovereignty.
In mainland China, a catastrophic fire can kill hundreds but no one has the right to say that more than 10 people died in the fire. This is not a theoretical proposition. It is an actual case.
On June 30 in the northern city of Tianjin, a shopping mall caught fire. When the fire started, the owner, fearing someone might leave without paying, ordered the doors to be locked. Most of those who escaped are employees who knew about a small, employee-only back door.
The official death toll for the fire is ten. The unofficial death toll is in the range of 300 to 500.
All the Party members in Tianjin were ordered to swear not to talk about the fire. All the residents were also not allowed to talk about the fire. Anyone who gives out a death toll higher than the official number of 10 will be punished or even prosecuted.
Why did the Party in Tianjin settle on 10 as the official number? Because an incident with less than 10 deaths is considered minor and won’t affect the promotion of a responsible official.
The Tianjin Party secretary Zhang Gaoli is expected to be named to the ruling Politburo Standing Committee at the 18th Party Congress later this year, and Zhang is not going to let the fire and the fate of hundreds destroy his shot at power.
Opening a Door
Of course, the Chinese people consider those who took the risk to expose the truth about the Tianjin fire as heroes.
Hai Dongqing, who works at the Tianjin Nankai Press Publisher, said “As one of the journalists in a city without news, I feel unprecedented shame and anger.”
In China, those who try to find the truth and report it put themselves in danger.
Tan Zhuoren tried to find the truth behind the collapsed schools during the catastrophic 2008 Sichuan earthquake. He was sentenced to five years in jail for that.
The prominent artist Ai Weiwei tried to investigate the names of the students who died in the collapsed schools during the earthquake. He got beat-up and suffered a head injury.
Sometimes in China, breaking through the censorship saves lives. When SARS just began to spread in 2003, The Epoch Times and the independent TV station New Tang Dynasty reported on the epidemic, when all media inside China denied it. Their reporting reached some inside mainland China. Had their reports not been censored by the Chinese regime and had people known about the epidemic, more lives could have been saved.
The same concept also applies to the information about the persecution of Falun Gong. Since July 1999, for 13 years, not a single article, TV program, or radio program in mainland China has told Falun Gong’s side of the story.
Many people in China chose to reject Falun Gong or even get involved in helping the persecution on the basis of false information. These people committed crimes because they were deceived. They can only be helped by giving them true information and then letting them make a choice.
Chung’s guilt or innocence of the charges against him is not clear. But if Chung did what he was accused of, he is a hero. He helped the Chinese people know what they are entitled to know and need to know. With the building burning down, he opened a door for people to escape.
The Epoch Times publishes in 35 countries and in 19 languages. Subscribe to our e-newsletter.