In recent years, a number of Chinese espionage cases have been exposed, highlighting the fact that Taiwan’s political, economic, military, social and other institutions have been seriously infiltrated by Chinese Communist Party (CCP) spies. The Taiwan National Security Bureau has estimated that the CCP has about 5,000 spies in Taiwan. They have infiltrated the Taiwan military using five major methods.
The CCP’s party guidelines explicitly state that all Party members and institutions have the responsibility of collecting intelligence, Tung Li-wen (董立文) , a Taiwan think tank advisory board member, told the Chinese language edition of the Epoch Times in a recent interview.
Tung said he believes that Taiwan’s understanding of Chinese espionage is greatly outdated, and the government should use new advocacy strategies to ensure that the public has a correct understanding of the CCP.
Recruitment of Taiwanese Citizens
According to statistics from Taiwan’s national security units, from 2002 to 2017, there were 60 cracked cases of espionage in Taiwan, with 18 cases before the “Three Linkages” at the end of 2008 and 42 cases in the ensuing seven years. The Three Linkages refers to the establishment of direct flights and shipping and postal services across the Taiwan Straits on Dec. 15, 2008. Such services did not exist between China and Taiwan prior to that time. The number of espionage cases after the Three Linkages is two to three times that of before. According to Ministry of National Defense officials, the 60 cases only include cases reported by the media. The actual number of spy cases is expected to be even greater.
According to the Ministry of Justice Investigation Bureau, due to an exceedingly large amount of data and the fact that historical cases have mostly been filed away, judging from the information currently available, the Investigation Bureau cracked 44 espionage cases between 2013 and June 2019.
Additionally, Wikipedia’s data shows that from 1999 to the present, from information already revealed by Taiwan’s National Army, among implicated military officers, 10 were “training grade” CCP spies, and four were among the “ranked grade.” These four were Lo Hsieh-che (羅賢哲) , former Major General of the Army Command; Chen Chu-fan (陳築藩), former deputy commander of the Military Police Command; Ko Cheng-sheng (柯政盛), a retired navy vice admiral; and Hsu Nai-chuan (許乃權), retired Major General of the 193th Brigade.
According to Hsiao Tai-fu (蕭台福), a retired deputy section director at the National Security Bureau, the exposed cases reveal that the units involved in Chinese espionage are all-encompassing and include the military’s land, naval, and air force units as well as intelligence agencies. Positions that received recruitment range from non-commissioned officers to generals and retired personnel to current staff, showing that the CCP’s espionage attacks have become increasingly fierce.
Hsiao said that none of the ones apprehended were secret or special agents of the CCP’s intelligence organs, they were all Taiwanese nationals. This indicates that when retired Taiwanese seek economic opportunities in the mainland after having difficulty finding jobs in Taiwan, mainland intelligence agencies will immediately take action and try to recruit them. All of this goes to show that the CCP is becoming more and more proficient in its espionage tactics of using Taiwanese citizens to control Taiwan.
Taiwan Government Also Infiltrated
Taiwan’s government is also heavily infiltrated by mainland Chinese spies. Some officials in the National Security Bureau have stated that although most cracked espionage cases in the past 15 years were concentrated in military institutions and only six cases in general administrative agencies, circumstances of government institutions being infiltrated are no less than those of the military.
For instance, in the Zhou Hongxu (周泓旭) espionage incident that broke in March 2017—the first case involving a mainland student—the intent was not to collect military intelligence, but to lock in on confidential information inside the central government. This indicates that the CCP has already penetrated the Taiwanese government.
There are explicit regulations in the CCP’s party guidelines, which state that all Party members and organizations are tasked with collecting intelligence, Tung Li-wen, the Taiwan think tank advisory board member, told the Epoch Times. Therefore, if all people who collect Taiwanese intelligence for CCP organizations are called spies, the number of spies is not merely a few thousand.
According to Tung, the CCP has not only committed intelligence theft in Taiwan, but has intelligence personnel in countries across the world, and even within internal CCP government organizations. Such a mechanism has already existed as early as during the “Nationalist-Communist civil war period.” And the reason Taiwan’s spy problem is so serious, is because during Taiwan’s process of democratization, the rules, systems, and laws for establishing national security were all neglected to some extent. Additionally, from 2008 to 2016, Taiwan greatly opened up the gateway for exchange with mainland China, but did not do a good job with regard to national security. Thus, the CCP took advantage of the loophole and infiltrated Taiwan with large numbers of spies.
However, the current Taiwanese society’s attitude toward anti-espionage has remained stuck in the martial law period [1949 to 1987], Tung said.
Tung referred to an advocacy film, produced by the FBI in 2015 for Americans wanting to study in China, informing students of the abnormal situations they need to pay attention to, and the methods used by CCP intelligence personnel to recruit American college students. He suggested that the Taiwan government do the same and better educate the public about the espionage cases Taiwan has encountered.
Methods Used by Chinese Spies
In recent years, the CCP has continued to strengthen its infiltration of Taiwan. The Ministry of Justice Investigation Bureau estimates the number of espionage cases that have been uncovered since 2013 to be as many as 44. But this is likely just the tip of the iceberg.
Through analyzing espionage incidents in recent years, and sorting out the infiltration patterns of the CCP’s intelligence departments, it can be said that common methods used by the CCP include honey traps, infiltration of friendship groups, social media entrapment, cyber theft, and using outside contractors to spy on military secrets.
To prevent intellectual property theft, the U.S. government continues expanding its monitoring of Chinese scientists. EW Priestap, the assistant director of the FBI’s counter-espionage office, said that the free and open educational environment of the United States has in recent years been increasingly exploited by academic spies to commit crimes that are posing a threat to American academic, economic, and military fields. Investigators have found that the number of Chinese academic spies is far greater than in any other country.
Money Bribes and Sex
Offering money and sex as bribes is the primary recruitment method used by spies working for the CCP’s Ministry of State Security. Though many countries have experienced cases of CCP infiltration, the recruitment of Major General Lo Hsieh-che as a Chinese spy, and his delivery of important military intel to the CCP, can be said to be the most representative case.
Lo Hsieh-che served as Taiwan’s military attache in Thailand during 2004. His promiscuity made him a CCP target. At that time, Li Peiqi, a Chinese female spy carrying an Australian passport, was dispatched by the CCP to communicate with him. Under the temptation from the female spy and large amounts of money, he was recruited by the CCP as a Communist spy and began to provide extremely confidential information that he encountered in his work. The price of each piece of information, depending on the amount of information or the degree of confidentiality, was roughly between 100 thousand and 200 thousand U.S. dollars.
In 2005, Lo was transferred back to Taiwan where he headed the electronic communications and information department of Taiwan’s Army recruitment. During this time, he remained in contact with Li Peiqi and used job opportunities to meet with her in the United States, where he would transfer intelligence and receive money. Lo was promoted to Major General in 2008. The case was fully uncovered in 2011, and Lo was sentenced to life imprisonment.
Li Peiqi, meanwhile, ascended to the post of the Chinese Ministry’s Taiwan Special Division director.
There are particular concerns that Lo may have passed on classified information on the “Po Sheng Operation”, an advanced island-wide electronic warfare communications network used for directing the army, navy and air force in joint Taiwan–US war operations and communicating with the US Pacific Command. The United States also expressed serious concern regarding this case.
Similar cases of the CCP using sexual favors for spy recruitment have been reported by other countries. According to Japan’s Yomiuri Shimbun, in 2002, a 46-year-old married telecommunications officer at the Japanese Consulate General in Shanghai gave in to the temptations of a female CCP spy. After being coerced into becoming a Communist spy, he continuously handed over Japanese diplomatic secrets to the CCP. Ultimatly, the officer was unable to withstand the pressure and committed suicide.
In 2011, there were three consuls at the Consulate General of the Republic of Korea in Shanghai who had simultaneous affairs with a Shanghai National Security Bureau agent with the surname Deng. They were entrapped into handing over internal Korean government information and the telephone numbers of high-level officials. In the end, due to rivalry for the affection of this secret agent, an information leak was exposed, and the three consuls were transferred back to Korea for investigation.
Using Relatives and Friends
It is also a common practice for CCP agents to use military compatriots or relatives to persuade and recruit spies. The espionage case of former Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Yuan Hsiao -feng (袁曉風) ’s is a classic example.
In 1992, after retiring from the army, Lieutenant Chen Wen-jen (陳文仁) went to mainland China to do business and married a Chinese wife. He was contacted by the Intelligence Department of the PLA’s General Staff Department and recruited as a spy. After Chen returned to Taiwan, he made contact with Yuan Hsiao -feng, a former classmate still serving in the Air Force.
Yuan agreed to collect intelligence, and from June 2003 to May 2007, using a USB flash drive and other methods, he continuously handed to the CCP industry management and air force secrets obtained through spying. He obtained a total of 7.8 million Taiwan dollars in remuneration. Yuan was sentenced to life imprisonment, and Chen to 20 years in prison.
Attracting Foreign Spies Through Social Media
Since the emergence of social media networking, Chinese intelligence agencies have also been using this medium to attract foreign spies.
In 2018, Kevin Mallory, a former CIA agent, was convicted of conspiring to commit espionage for China. He was arrested in April 2017 after returning from his second trip to Shanghai and was found to be in possession of more than $16,000 in undeclared cash and a special communications device for transmitting documents. Prosecutors said he sent classified documents to a Chinese intelligence officer who had first contacted him on LinkedIn. Mallory had been out of work for months and falling behind on his mortgage payments.
Cybertheft is also a means used by the Ministry of State Security to gather intelligence. According to a study conducted by the U.S. Internet security company “Fire Eye” in 2017 and confirmed by the U.S. Internet technology company “Recorded Future,” the Chinese hacker group “APT3” has ties with the Guangzhou company “Bo Yu Information Technology.” Additionally, “Bo Yu” works as a contractor for the CCP’s Ministry of State Security. A 2016 U.S. Department of Defense report stated that the “Bo Yu” and “Huawei” companies worked together with the Ministry of State Security to attack foreign government networks and obtain intelligence information.
Contractors Used to Spy on Military
Using outsourced contract firms who are undertaking military construction projects to spy on the military is another method used by the CCP. In 2019, Taiwan prosecuted and exposed an espionage case involving two people working for an engineering company in New Taipei City. Between 2016 and 2018, Mr. Zhang, the supervisor of the company and his partner, Mr. Lin, were suspected of having used several contracts from the Ministry of National Defense to assist the CCP in spying and collecting information about national electronics, cyber warfare, and other national defense secrets, and even recruiting National Army personnel as spies to expand the CCP’s spy organizations.
China’s Intelligence Organizations
The CCP’s espionage work in Taiwan is already all-pervasive. According to Taiwan’s retired intelligence agencies, the CCP has at least three intelligence organizations belonging to different systems that collect and file relevant information about Kuomintang National Army military officers ranked colonel and above.
Wong Yen-ching (翁衍慶), who has been engaged in intelligence work for 35 years, was previously the publisher and director of the magazine Study on the Chinese Communist Party and deputy chief of the Military Intelligence Bureau. In 2018, he published the book China’s Intelligence Organizations and Espionage Activities, where he used his long-term work experience and understanding of intelligence information to analyze the vast intelligence departments under the CCP’s party and government administration, unveiling the CCP’s “hidden front.”
According to the book’s table of contents, the CCP’s intelligence agencies are mainly organized under the three categories of Party, Government and Military, which includes the International Liaison Department and United Front Departments led directly by the Communist Party, and the Ministry of State Security and Ministry of Public Security under the jurisdiction of the State Council.
As to the Military system, after the 2016 military reform, the PLA’s General Staff Department was reorganized as the Joint General Staff Department. The General Intelligence Department was changed to the Joint Staff Department Intelligence Bureau, and the former Technical Reconnaissance Department and the Electronic Radar Countermeasure Department were combined to form the newly established Strategic Support Force.
The China International Liaison Department, directly under the Communist Party, engages in intelligence activities under the guise of foreign outreach. In the past, working partners only included communist parties and leftist political parties. However, after the regulation revisions of 1982, it expanded its contacts to different political parties and numerous countries. As of today, it has established contacts with more than 400 political parties in more than 160 countries around the world, most of which are ruling or politically active parties.
The United Front Department
The other department lead by the Party is the United Front Department. Its main objective is to manage the relationship between the CCP and non-communist individuals and groups, and, by attempting to create a “United Front,” ensure that these individuals or organizations can be made use of by the Party.
Targets of the United Front include democratic parties, non-partisan parties, non-party scholars, ethnic minorities, religious circles, industrial and commercial associations, new social classes, overseas students, Hong Kong and Macao citizens, Taiwanese citizens and their mainland relatives, and overseas Chinese, etc.
According to the 2018 report by the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission (under the U.S. Congress) titled, “China’s Overseas United Front Work,” the CCP’s United Front work is playing an increasingly important role in the CCP’s foreign policy, and the CCP uses the United Front to draw in and eliminate forces that may potentially oppose the policies and authority of the Communist Party.
The report also mentions that in addition to the United Front Department, many military and the CCP’s non-governmental organizations “are active in carrying out United Front work” by either working directly for the United Front Work Department or under the broader leadership of the CPPCC.
The Overseas Chinese World Conference for Promoting Peaceful Reunification of China––referred to as the China Council for the Promotion of Peaceful National Reunification––is directly affiliated with the United Front Work Department and currently has at least 200 branches in 90 countries, of which 33 are registered in the United States alone. In addition, the former People’s Liberation Army General Political Department also uses frontline organizations such as friendship associations and cultural associations to conduct the broader tasks of conducting overseas promotional activities and gathering intelligence.
The U.S. report pointed out that Friendship Associations all have connections with the Ministry of State Security, the Ministry of Civil Affairs and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. They are platforms for deploying secret intelligence collectors. In addition to sending intelligence collectors abroad, the associations also sponsor foreign military and veterans groups, businessmen, and former politicians to travel to China, where they are often made to come into contact with carefully selected CCP military personnel.
Taiwan think tank advisory board member Tung Li-wen said the impact and damage caused by the CCP’s United Front work in Taiwan is no less than the damage caused by the CCP’s military espionage. For example, in 2016, Wu Sz-huai (吳斯懷), a former deputy commander of Taiwan, and 32 other retired generals, went to mainland China to participate in the 150th anniversary of Sun Yat-sen’s birthday commemoration. At the event they sang the national anthem of the Chinese Communist Party, saluted the flag of the Chinese Communist Party, and performed other actions that harmed the interests and dignity of Taiwan.
He said that these former Taiwanese generals who previously shouted anti-communist slogans in the army are now singing the CCP’s national anthem and saluting the CCP’s national flag in mainland China. These actions not only severely hurt the morale of officers and men in Taiwan’s national army, but also undermine and confuse the national army’s concept of the enemy, causing personnel to not know the reason for fighting. This is tantamount to covertly encouraging young, strong military officers to engage in espionage activities.
As a footnote, Sun Yat-sen was the first president of the Republic of China and the first leader of the Nationalist Party of China after his instrumental role in the overthrow of the Qing dynasty in 1911. Although he is referred to as the “Father of the Nation” in both mainland China and Taiwan, during the communist take-over of China in 1949, the Nationalist Party leaders were forced to flee from the mainland and to re-establish their government on the island of Taiwan, which still holds the official, original name of “Republic of China.”
The Ministry of National Security’s Multiple Recruiting Methods
In his book China’s Intelligence Organizations and Espionage Activities, Wong Yen-ching mentioned that the Ministry of State Security––the spy organization under the State Council––has a total of 18 Bureaus, each of which has front organizations for external use. For example, The Fourth Bureau is in charge of Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macao and is commonly referred to externally as the Department of Hong Kong, Maco, and Taiwan Affairs. The Fourteenth Bureau is in charge of Technical Reconnaissance and uses the name China Institute of Information Science externally. The Fifteenth Bureau is in charge of Comprehensive Intelligence Analysis and uses the name Institute of Asian and European Intelligence Studies externally.
In addition, the National Security Bureau often uses the names of Chinese investment groups to infiltrate the outside world. Their agents also pose as reporters for Xinhua News Agency or the China News Service to engage in intelligence work, join the delegation of the Chinese People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries and the China Association for International Understanding to interview association members and collect their personal information, and assume the status of a tour guide or driver for China International Travel Service to insert special agents in state and private enterprises and to infiltrate foreign countries.
The CCP’s Ministry of State Security prefers to recruit Taiwanese and foreigners that are within Chinese borders to engage in the CCP’s intelligence work. According to the book Chinese Intelligence Operations, by former U.S. intelligence officer Nicholas Eftimiades, “the main advantage of this method is that if the target refuses, the CCP’s intelligence officers are still safe.”
Targets include diplomats, government officials, academics, journalists, businessmen, and military personnel. In addition, foreign scholars will, under the name of research institutes or universities, be invited to give lectures or attend conferences in China, with all costs paid for speakers and their families.
The Defection of Chi Mak
After the CCP reorganized the Central Military Commission and the seven military regions in 2016, the CCP’s military intelligence units were also reformed.
The former General Staff Department was adapted into the Joint Staff Department. The International Intelligence Department of the Ministry of National Defense, also known as Second Intelligence Division of the General Staff Department, was replaced by the Intelligence Bureau of Joint Staff Department. The former Technology and Reconnaissance Department and Department of Electronic Radar Countermeasures were combined to form the newly established Strategic Support Force.
The Second Intelligence Division of the General Staff Department lists Chinese scientists living abroad as key targets and often uses fame and money as recruiting bait. The most famous spy case is that of Chi Mak, a former chief engineer of a U.S. Defense contractor.
When Chi Mak visited relatives in China in 1983, he was recruited by the Second Intelligence Division of the General Staff Department as a spy. The military technologies he stole include submarine power systems, guided missile and missile destroyers, Aegis cruisers’ aegis combat system, the Spy-1 radar, the torpedo technology of the Virginia Class Attack Submarines, electromagnetic aircraft launch systems, unmanned spy planes, high-altitude nuclear burst technology, and numerous other U.S. military secrets.
Because Mak leaked massive amounts of high-tech U.S. military secrets and caused great losses, this was considered the most serious espionage case in the United States since Soviet spy John Anthony Walker delivered U.S. Navy communication passwords to Moscow to 1985. Mak was sentenced to 24 years and 5 months in prison.
Currently, the information unveiled on the CCP’s fifth military branch, the Strategic Support Force, is very small.
According to Wong Yen-ching’s book, the Strategic Support Force contains four independent arms.
First: The Cyber Army, called the Strategic Support Military’s Cyberspace Combat Army, also known as the Third Division of the Strategic Support Force;
Second: The Space Army, responsible for reconnaissance and navigation satellites;
Third: The Electronic Warfare Force, responsible for combat control and interference of opponents’ radar and communication systems;
Fourth: The Psychological Warfare Force.
The third division of the Strategic Support Force is headquartered in the Haidian District of Beijing and has 12 Bureaus under it, the second of which mainly targets the U.S. State Department and the Ministry of National Defense. The Sixth Bureau is responsible for collection and analysis of Taiwan’s technical intelligence, including Taiwan’s island satellites and high-altitude surveillance, telecommunications interception, and interception of information from Taiwan’s international long-distance calls, fax, mobile phones, and network data.
Wong Yen-ching mentioned that the CCP uses pre-set key vocabulary in its Taiwan telecommunication monitoring systems. When the system detects such vocabulary, it will immediately alert monitoring workers to listen in. A portion of units in the Sixth Bureau use the names of Research Centers and the Communication Laboratories as a front and are concealed within Wuhan University. In addition, at least three super-signal intelligence monitoring stations have been deployed in Fujian Province for the purpose of monitoring Taiwan’s radio signals.
Taiwanese legislator Wang Ding-yu said that a Communist military report released by the U.S. think tank “2049 Project Research Institute” states that the Strategic Support Force was established at the end of 2015 and currently consists of 100,000 people, with 30,000 people in departments related to cyber attacks, and their main aim is to conduct “cognitive space warfare” on Taiwanese society.
Wang said that “cognitive space” refers to the source of the information that people listen to every day, including mobile news, LINE screenshots, messages from friends, newspapers, and television news. “Cognitive space warfare” is not just about repeating one lie a hundred times, but about completely filling up people’s information channels and surroundings with them, whereby people’s thoughts become more distorted by the day.
Attributes That Make One a Likely Target of Spy Recruitment
In view of the increasing number of espionage cases in recent years, and in order to prevent the CCP from absorbing more spies, Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense has identified the five major characteristics that puts personnel in the high-risk group of becoming a target of the CCP’s spy recruitment.
- Mainland China Background: Friends and relatives often go to mainland China for business, study, or travel reasons; or those who are in close contact, or often have working meetings, with retired former officers who are seeking work in the mainland.
- Financial Problems: People who have suffered financial loss, have accumulated debts, court deductions and other financial constraints; or people whose economic sources are unknown or who spend extravagantly.
- Confidentiality Violations: Those found through internal auditing to have confidential information from non-industry management, or use their job position to inquire, collect, photocopy, or burn confidential information.
- Disregard for One’s Words and Actions: Those with an extravagant lifestyle outside the norm, who often frequent improper places, who gamble, are addicted to social media, or are involved in improper sexual relations.
- Traveling Abnormalities: People who travel frequently to Southeast Asia, take cruises, travel abroad unaccompanied by their spouse, or receive receptions when traveling abroad.
The Defense Department of the Ministry of National Defense stated that CCP intelligence units recruit military members through the two channels of overseas and the mainland. For National Armed Forces personnel stationed abroad, the means of recruitment are money, sex, and other incentives. For people in China and for retired officers, the methods used are setting traps, coercion, forming a unified front, sex, helping settle debts, and providing business opportunities.
The Defense Department of the Ministry of National Defense also said that the CCP’s infiltratration strategy of national military units often uses relationships between classmates, old military comrades, banquet and working meal invitations, the giving of small incentives, establishing social connections, locking in on targets, and overseas receptions as its main methods. The delivery of tasks and rewards are done either overseas or in Taiwan, where payments are primarily cash-based to avoid financial tracing. The task after returning to the country is then to develop organizational or unilateral work.