《TAIPEI TIMES》 Ministry to probe groups linked to illegal entries
Deputy Minister of the Interior Chen Tsung-yen speaks at the Executive Yuan in Taipei yesterday. Photo: CNA
CROSS-STRAIT CONCERN: Many of the itineraries arranged by Huaxia Dadi included meetings with top Bamboo Union members and CUPP officials, prosecutors said
By Lee Hsin-fang, Dennis Xie and Jake Chung / Staff reporter, with staff writers
The Ministry of the Interior is to conduct a thorough investigation of shell associations and groups allegedly involved in an operation that provided illegal entry to Taiwan for Chinese officials and even spies, Deputy Minister of the Interior Chen Tsung-yen （陳宗彥） said yesterday.
It is to investigate whether the groups have been involved in abnormal cross-strait exchanges, Chen said.
The number of groups to be surveyed must be considerable, but the ministry does not have an exact figure at present, he said.
Prosecutors said that the operation was allegedly headed by Hung Ching-lin （洪慶淋）, a retired journalist and former office director of the Chinese Nationalist Party’s （KMT） caucus at the then-Taipei County Council.
Other suspects included Hung’s wife and daughter, as well as the owners and managers of New Taipei City-based travel agencies, prosecutors said.
Hung allegedly registered more than 100 nonprofit organizations and shell companies with the New Taipei City Government, and colluded with about 20 travel agencies, prosecutors said.
He allegedly organized short-term cross-strait exchange programs to enable Chinese who might have otherwise been denied entry to visit Taiwan on “package tours,” they said.
Huaxia Dadi Travel Service Co （華夏大地旅行社） — which is run by Chang Wei （張瑋）, the son of Chinese Unification Promotion Party （CUPP） founder Chang An-le （張安樂） — was among the shell associations, prosecutors said.
Many of the itineraries arranged by Huaxia Dadi included meetings with top Bamboo Union gang members and CUPP officials, prompting prosecutors to suspect the true purposes of the “tourist visits,” they said.
Chen said in an interview at the Executive Yuan in Taipei that the National Immigration Agency （NIA） first noticed the shell associations in 2017.
National security agencies are examining data from before and after Aug. 1, when Bejing placed additional restrictions on individual travel to Taiwan, Chen said.
Separately yesterday, Mainland Affairs Council Deputy Minister Chiu Chui-cheng （邱垂正） told a news briefing in Taipei that the government was strict when reviewing applications considered “suspicious” to ensure healthy cross-strait interactions and normalization.
From 2016 to last month, 232 Chinese passport holders seeking to visit Taiwan were barred from applying or placed on a warning list, Chiu said, citing NIA data.
There were 26 Chinese passport holders prohibited from entering Taiwan, while 964 Chinese had overstayed visas, resulting in fines totaling NT$1.92 million （US$63,145）, he said.
Additional reporting by CNA