《TAIPEI TIMES》 Suspects running China-funded tours
Tourists visit the Hongyadong scenic zone during the weeklong national holiday in Chongqing, China, on Sept. 30. Photo: AP
NO FREE LUNCH: Taiwanese joining the trips to China met TAO and United Front Work officials who urged them to vote for candidates who support closer ties with Beijing
By Shelley Shan / Staff reporter
The Ciaotou Prosecutors’ Office in Kaohsiung yesterday released two suspects on bail who have been accused of recruiting Taiwanese to join tours to China funded by Beijing and in which they were urged to vote for pan-blue candidates in January’s presidential and legislative elections.
The pan-blue camp generally refers to the Chinese Nationalist Party （KMT）, the People First Party, the New Party and the Young China Party, which support closer relations with China.
Prosecutors said that a man, surnamed Cheng （鄭）, and a woman, surnamed Yeh （葉）, who are members of the China Pan-Blue Association, recruited Taiwanese tourists to join tours arranged and funded entirely by China’s Taiwan Affairs Office （TAO） from May to last month.
An investigation found that the two had helped arrange five tours to China, with TAO representatives accompanying the visitors throughout the trip. The five destinations were: Shandong Province from May 7 to 14; Shanxi Province from June 24 to July 2; Inner Mongolia from Aug. 3 to 13; Xinjiang Province from Sept. 4 to 18; and Henan Province from Oct. 19 to 28, prosecutors said.
About 130 Taiwanese participated in the tours, including six current and former borough wardens, prosecutors said.
During the trips, visitors met with representatives from the TAO and China’s United Front Work Department, who urged them to vote for pan-blue candidates to remove the Democratic Progressive Party government from office, they said.
“TAO representatives used these meetings to ask the visitors about their political inclinations and express the wish that they would support cooperation between the pan-blue camp and the Taiwan People’s Party or a specific presidential candidate. Cheng also helped amplify their agenda on the sidelines,” prosecutors said.
The visitors were also told to support cross-strait peace and the so-called “1992 consensus,” and to oppose Taiwanese independence.
The “1992 consensus” — a term that former Mainland Affairs Council chairman Su Chi （蘇起） in 2006 admitted making up in 2000 — refers to a tacit understanding between the KMT and the Chinese Communist Party （CCP） that both sides of the Taiwan Strait acknowledge there is “one China,” with each side having its own interpretation of what “China” means.
The prosecutors’ office formed a six-member team and summoned Cheng, Yeh and 20 others for investigation.
Prosecutors said that Cheng and Yeh are suspected of contravening the Anti-Infiltration Act （反滲透法）, the Presidential and Vice Presidential Election and Recall Act （總統副總統選舉罷免法） and the Public Officials Election and Recall Act （公職人員選舉罷免法）.
The two were released on bail of NT$150,000 and NT$50,000 respectively, and were restricted from leaving the country.
Aside from treating Taiwanese tourists to free tours to China, Taiwanese security officials have identified other ways that Beijing uses to interfere in Taiwan’s elections, such as deploying artificial intelligence to disseminate misinformation and inviting political commentators and heads of polling firms to attend forums in China.