Four Retired Taiwan Intelligence Officers Face Charges Over Spying for China

Four Retired Taiwan Intelligence Officers Face Charges Over Spying for China
Two Taiwanese navy soldiers raise the national flag on the first indigenous mine-laying speedboat during an official ceremony at a shipyard in Suao, in Yilan County, Taiwan on Dec. 15, 2020. (Sam Yeh/AFP via Getty Images)
Frank Fang

TAIPEI, Taiwan—Four retired Taiwanese intelligence officials were indicted on Feb. 20 for allegedly spying for China, according to local prosecutors.

The four worked for the Military Intelligence Bureau, an agency under Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense. According to local media, they were accused of violating the island’s National Security Act and the National Intelligence Service Law for passing on confidential intelligence to Chinese agents and developing a spy network since 2013.

The four once held high-ranking military positions in the bureau. Yueh Chih-chung was a former major general while the other three were former colonels: Chang Chao-jan, Chou Tien-tzu, and Wang Ta-wang.

In exchange for information about Taiwan, Chinese intelligence officials offered Chang, Chou, and Yueh cash, free trips to China, and business opportunities in China, prosecutors alleged.

China claims Taiwan as a part of its territory and seeks to unite the self-ruled island with the mainland, through peaceful or military means. For years, Beijing has tried to undermine the island’s national security by targeting Taiwanese nationals to gather intelligence.

For example, three former aides to local lawmakers in Taiwan were arrested in June last year on espionage charges, allegedly spying for China. They were charged two months later.
In March 2019, two retired Taiwanese lieutenant colonels were sentenced to a six-month prison term after being found guilty of attempting to collect Taiwan’s military secrets for Beijing.

The latest criminal case started back in 1999 when Chang traveled to China to rescue a retired Taiwanese colonel from the military bureau who had been arrested by Chinese authorities. During that trip, Chang was successfully recruited by a Chinese agent surnamed Wei to become a spy for China. Wei was an official at the national security bureau of southern China’s Guangdong Province.

Chang was asked to recruit other retired officials from the Taiwan bureau.

In 2012, Chou became a Chinese spy after becoming involved in a real estate-related legal dispute in southern China’s Hainan Province. On one occasion, Chou assisted Chinese intelligence officials in identifying other Taiwanese intelligence officials.

That same year, Yueh became a spy after Wei made assurances to him that he could safely visit his relatives in China. Yueh, who was in charge of collecting China-related intelligence at the Taiwan bureau, became worried that he could be detained by Chinese authorities for his work.

Yueh was once paid HK$6,000 (about $774) for agreeing to provide classified information on the Taiwan bureau, including its operations and structure, according to the local daily Taipei Times. Wei also paid for Yueh’s travel expenses and accommodation costs when he visited Chinese cities in 2016 for leisure activities and meeting with Chinese officials.

Wang leaked to China the career and background information of his training classmates at the Taiwan bureau. Wang became a spy following a meeting with intelligence officials in China, which was arranged by Chang.

But not all recruitments were successful. Chang and Chou failed to recruit a retired colonel from the bureau in 2013; Chang, Chou, and Yueh failed to recruit another retired colonel from the bureau in 2017.

Chang was released after posting bail of $300,000 New Taiwan Dollars (about $10,740) on Saturday evening, according to Taiwan’s government-run Central News Agency. He is banned from leaving Taiwan. Chang had been detained since October last year.

Yueh and Chou were also released in October after posting bail. Wang’s status is unclear.

Frank Fang is a Taiwan-based journalist. He covers U.S., China, and Taiwan news. He holds a master's degree in materials science from Tsinghua University in Taiwan.
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