A protester waves a black flag in front of Govt Headquarters in Hong Kong on July 21. Photo: AFP Forum via NurPhoto/ Vernon Yuen

Taiwanese authorities are mounting a purge on disinformation spread via the Internet, with a concerted move to refute allegations from pro-Beijing media that Taiwanese agents colluded with protesters in Hong Kong.

Papers on the island said more than 100 Taiwanese and mainlanders have been arrested and prosecuted on charges ranging from channeling funds to Beijing’s preferred presidential candidate – like Kuomintang party nominee and Kaohsiung mayor Han Kuo-yu – to relaying orders and “news leads” from mainland cadres to pro-reunification media outlets on the island.

With rallies against a China extradition bill in Hong Kong stretching into a second month, the Taiwanese government has also sought to quash claims that it has fanned and funded the city’s protesters.

Taiwan’s Criminal Investigation Bureau under the Ministry of Justice called on Facebook to remove a post claiming that the island’s President Tsai Ing-wen allocate NT$1 billion (US$32 million) to fund anti-government protesters in Hong Kong through the island’s de-facto embassy in the city, while supposedly refusing to fund the fight against dengue fever in counties in southern Taiwan.

Pro-Beijing newspapers in Hong Kong also allege that Taiwanese agents have been seen meeting protesters and comparing notes on tactics and how to charge police cordons. This has led to similar reports appearing in papers in Taiwan.

Officers at Taiwan’s Criminal Investigation Bureau suspects that Beijing is simply spreading disinformation, but has admitted that it has no convincing evidence to verify that. It says the IP addresses of those spreading this fake news are usually in Singapore and other countries in Southeast Asia.

‘Not involved in HK’

Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council and its office in Hong Kong stressed that while the island morally supports the city’s protesters it has no involvement in the rallies. And it has challenged these accusers to provide proof to back their claims.

The bureau has set up a special task force to cope with a deluge of fake news and disinformation probably designed to damage the image of Tsai and her ruling Democratic Progressive Party in the run-up to a new presidential election in January, according to the Central News Agency.

In June, tens of thousands of Taiwanese staged a rally against the“red media” – funded by mainland capital or businessmen with ties with China whose editorial position defers to Beijing. That may have given authorities more confidence to clamp down on contentious claims made on the Net with little apparent proof.

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