Taiwan ruling party says China 'enemy of democracy' after meddling allegations

The chairman of Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen's ruling party said there needed to be further investigations, noting that a lot of fake news came from China. PHOTO: REUTERS

TAIPEI (REUTERS) - Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen's ruling party denounced China as an "enemy of democracy" on Monday (Nov 25) following fresh claims of Chinese interference in the island's politics ahead of presidential and legislative elections on Jan 11.

The allegations, reported by Australian media, were made by a Chinese asylum seeker in Australia who said he was a Chinese spy. China, which claims Taiwan as its sacred territory, to be brought under Beijing's control by force if necessary, has branded the asylum seeker a fraud.

The Chinese man, Wang Liqiang, also provided details of Chinese efforts to infiltrate universities and media in the Chinese territory of Hong Kong, which has been rocked by months of anti-government protests.

Mr Cho Jung-tai, chairman of Ms Tsai's Democratic Progressive Party, which favours Taiwan's formal independence, said there needed to be further investigations, noting that a lot of fake news came from China.

"The enemy of democracy is China. At present, Taiwan's most ambitious opponent, competitor, is also China," Mr Cho told a news conference in Taipei.

Among several allegations levelled, the would-be defector said he had helped guide positive media attention toward certain Taiwanese politicians, including President Tsai's main opponent, Mr Han Kuo-yu of the China-friendly Kuomintang party.

Mr Cho said that while Kuomintang is the direct opponent in the election, the biggest challenge came from China, describing it as "strongest destructive force".

Kuomintang's Mr Han said he would drop out of the election if it was found that he had taken any money from the Chinese Communist Party.

Speaking at a separate news conference, the Kuomintang said the issue was one of "blundering Communist espionage" that should be investigated immediately, and accused the government of seeking to use the matter to "manipulate elections".

"We are urging the Tsai government and national security authorities to explain related incidents. They should not take an ambiguous attitude on the matter, influencing elections," said Kuomintang spokesman Wang Hong-wei.

Mr Ouyang Long, another Kuomintang spokesman, said people should not be "painted red", in reference to allegations of links to the Chinese Communist Party, and accused Ms Tsai's administration of "working in collusion" with outside forces.

"They should give a responsible answer to citizens and prevent rumours and fake news from circling, affecting the fairness of the 2020 elections," Mr Ouyang said.

China's state-backed Global Times tabloid said in a Monday opinion piece that Wang Liqiang sounded like an "opportunistic liar, probably a swindler".

Three Taipei-based diplomatic and security sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Reuters they also doubted whether Wang was who he claimed to be, though his allegations were plausible.

"Our assessment is he is most likely not who is says he is," said one of the sources.

Separately, Taiwan authorities have requested cooperation from two directors of a Hong Kong-listed company which was named in the Australian reports as being involved in Communist Party infiltration of Hong Kong universities and media, the firm said on Monday.

Wang said he was part of an intelligence operation working within Hong Kong-listed China Innovation Investment Limited to infiltrate Hong Kong universities and media with pro-Communist Party operatives to counter the territory's democracy movement.

In a statement to the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, the company said the reports were "all fictitious and forged" and that Wang had never worked there.

The company said that on Monday it had received notification from Executive Director Xiang Xin and alternate Director Kung Ching that they had been about to leave Taipei Taoyuan Airport when Taiwanese investigators requested their cooperation in an "investigation on the matter of the news reports".

"In fact, Mr Xiang and Mrs Kung knew nothing about the issues exposed in the news reports," the statement said.

It said both directors had engaged Taiwan lawyers to provide assistance. It was not immediately clear who their lawyers were.

Taiwan's Investigation Bureau declined to comment. The company declined to provide further details beyond what was in the statement.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.