《TAIPEI TIMES》 Raised terms for collusion to be debated
People walk past a banner depicting a soldier waving a flag at the Ministry of National Defense in Taipei on Dec. 26 last year. Photo: Ann Wang, Reuters
DETERRENCE: Proposed amendments to increase penalties would also apply to retired officers ranked major or above, as China targets them as recruiters, a DPP legislator said
By Chen Cheng-yu and Jonathan Chin / Staff reporter, with staff writer
Enough signatures have been gathered for amendments to the National Security Act （國家安全法） that seek to increase the penalty for military personnel who collude with China to be deliberated in the Legislative Yuan, Democratic Progressive Party （DPP） Legislator Lo Chih-cheng （羅致政） said yesterday.
The proposed amendments include clear definitions of espionage and infiltration by a foreign power, and would increase the sentence for public officials and military service members found guilty of spying by 50 percent, he said.
The proposed penalty increase would apply to retired officers who held the rank of major or above, as Beijing’s espionage activities often target them to recruit active service members, Lo said.
A heavier sentence is required for deterrence purposes, he added.
The justice system’s treatment of military officers found guilty of handing secrets to China has on a number of occasions triggered an outcry as the public has perceived sentences to be too light.
Taiwanese believe judges are oblivious to the risk disloyal officers represent to national security and that establishing a national security court benched by specialist judges would solve the issue, Lo said.
He said he has long called for the creation of a national security court, but his plea has fallen on deaf ears at the Ministry of Justice, which has said that the offenses are too rare to warrant the formation of a dedicated court.
The proposed amendments draw in part from the case of army Colonel Hsiang Te-en （向德恩）, who, despite signing a contract surrendering to China and passing on sensitive military information, was in his first trial sentenced to seven years and six months in prison for corruption.
This verdict was upheld at his second trial.
The proposed amendments say that leaking, transferring or delivering classified documents, drawings, images, videos, information or digital records that harm the national interest or the lives, freedom or property of Taiwan’s intelligence operatives should be punishable with more than seven years in prison.
Military personnel on active service or serving civil servants who use their duties or authority to conduct espionage for a foreign power can cause tremendous damage to the nation, the proposed amendments’ statement of purpose says.
Retired officers compromised by foreign spy agencies would enable the latter to access their social network and leverage their remaining influence in the armed forces, which can be as harmful as betrayal by active civil or military personnel, it says.
Therefore the proposed amendments stipulate an equal increase in sentences for active and retired military members, it says.