The exterior of Taiwan's Defense Ministry. Photo: Twitter

A colonel with the Taiwanese army’s top research institute who left highly classified documents about a rocket development program in the basket of a rental bicycle in Taipei has been demoted and may face disciplinary action from the island’s Defense Ministry.

The neglectful colonel surnamed Hsieh was a deputy chief at the Chungshan Institute of Science and Technology, Taiwan’s key research and development center for weapons and defense technologies. After attending a meeting in the Defense Ministry complex in Taipei, he rode a public rental bike to a subway station, where he forgot to take with him the classified documents he had placed in the bicycle’s basket.

By coincidence, the next user of the bike happened to be a military policeman, who handed the files to the Defense Ministry’s security division, which then alerted the defense minister and launched an internal investigation.

The initial probe found that the documents, reportedly about Taiwan’s plan to develop and trial indigenous rockets, had not been leaked, nor had any related state secrets or technical information been compromised.

Still, the Defense Ministry has ordered the Chungshan Institute to review protocols and take disciplinary action against the colonel, who has been transferred to another position with limited access to classified information.

The Taipei Times revealed that the incident occurred at the end of 2018 and that the documents contained information about a project involving the development of low-Earth-orbit rockets.

The Taiwanese authorities are tight-lipped about further details on such rockets and whether they will be launched from a domestic launch center or elsewhere overseas. A new constellation of remote-sensing and weather-forecasting satellites, Formosat-7, jointly developed by Taiwanese and US scientists, will enter space atop a SpaceX rocket later this year.

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