A Chinese flag flies in front of the Taiwan Presidential Palace in Taipei. A Republic of China (Taiwan) flag is seen on the right. Photo: Central News Agency
A Chinese flag in front of the Taiwan Presidential Palace in Taipei. A Republic of China (Taiwan) flag is on the right. Photo: Central News Agency

Taiwanese lawmakers from the ruling Democratic Progressive Party have co-signed a motion to mete out heavier custodial terms to incumbent or retired National Security Bureau officers if they are found guilty of leaking state secrets to China.

The proposed amendments to the National Intelligence Services Act would double the current three- to 10-year jail term for handing secrets to a foreign power.

Lawmakers say the penalties must be stepped up to deter offenders, in light of the mounting threat of China-backed espionage and infiltration, especially those aimed at compromising Taiwan’s national security apparatus.

Heavier sentencing is justified by the fact that bureau officials and support staff have access to highly-sensitive intelligence and classified information.

The vetting of candidates for national security services after they complete training and probation is a potential vulnerability that hostile powers could seek to exploit to gain insight into the bureau’s operation and procedures, according to lawmakers.

Regular security vetting is conducted to ensure that intelligence officers’ loyalty and integrity are not comprised throughout their career.

Meanwhile, Taiwan’s Executive Yuan has prioritized combating misinformation in a directive that came after a national security conference on Monday convened by President Tsai Ing-wen.

Tsai warned that a volley of misinformation propagated by China has undermined Taiwan’s democracy and social order. She said Beijing’s ideological war and campaign were not only targeted at politics, but also included spreading fake information about food security, agriculture and disaster prevention to destabilize society.

But related measures including stricter scrutiny of social networking platforms, online bulletins as well as the operation of media outlets have been greeted with concerns that the Tsai administration was consolidating its grip on power at the expense of liberty and freedom of speech.

In related news, it was rumored that the island’s Communications Committee may veto Chinese tech conglomerate Tencent’s plan to establish a branch office in Taiwan, on the grounds that the office could serve Beijing’s “united front” agenda. But Taiwan now has some 10 million users of WeChat, Tencent’s most popular social networking app.

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