Where ex-generals’ loyalties lie

    By Paul Lin 林保華
Taipei Times 230314

A Feb. 28 article in Japan’s Nihon Keizai Shimbun, or Nikkei, alleging that many Taiwanese retired military officers had served as spies for China has sparked fervent debate in the nation, in particular drawing a furious reaction from Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) legislator-at-large Wu Sz-huai (吳斯懷), a retired lieutenant general. The article had obviously touched a nerve.

To protest the article, Wu proposed that Taiwan and Japan stop all military exchanges. Japan is one of the most important members of the US’ Indo-Pacific Strategy; suspending Taipei’s military exchanges with Tokyo would be to withhold participation in this strategy altogether.

Furthermore, as the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security between the US and Japan concerns Taiwan, this would mean that Taipei would be outside the protection of the treaty. What is Wu playing at in demanding that Taiwan stop engaging with Japan, while at the same time approving of interactions with China?

As the Nikkei is a private media outlet, the Japanese government is not responsible for its views or content. It is ludicrous for critics to demand that Japan offer an explanation. Only people who subscribe to the party-state ideology would think that the media should be under the control of the state. Japan is a democratic nation, not a party state under the rule of the communist party or the KMT.

As those critics fail to grasp the difference, they are exploiting the incident to spread pro-China propaganda. It is these same pundits who choose to keep silent and serve as Beijing’s mouthpiece when Chinese media outlets like the Global Times publish articles that tarnish and insult Taiwan. They forget that they are undermining freedom of speech when they demand that a media outlet only publish content in line with their ideology.

Even though there is no concrete evidence to back the Nikkei’s allegations, would it have made a difference if the figure were changed from 90 percent to 10 percent of retired officers having served as Chinese spies? That Wu went to Beijing, sat and listened to a speech by Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) in 2016 is already a stain on the Taiwanese army, not to mention that there were other four star generals and officers on the same trip, an act akin to swearing allegiance to Taiwan’s greatest enemy. In contrast, retired officials like air force lieutenant general Chang Yen-ting (張延廷), army general Yu Pei-chen (于北辰) and former National Assembly member Huang Peng-hsiao (黃澎孝) have demonstrated a different kind of character, one of patriotism and valor.

Only a handful of people probably remember the incident involving major general Pan Hsi-hsien. In 2000, three days after retiring as personnel director of the National Security Bureau, Pan went to China to take a position at a Taiwanese electronics company. He was allegedly detained then released, raising the possibility that he leaked intelligence in exchange for freedom. This would have wreaked havoc on Taiwan’s spy network in China. Did he commit this act out of ignorance of the enemy’s intentions or because of personal greed?

A number of retired generals then followed his example; even former vice president Lien Chan (連戰) had investments in China. What a waste of taxpayers’ money to pay their pensions while they collude with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to oppress Taiwan.

Taiwan has had a fair share of incidents like these. In 2020, former army colonel Hsiang Te-en (向德恩) was found guilty of accepting NT$560,000 from China in exchange for signing a “surrender agreement,” promising that he would work for China in the event of a cross-strait war. Hsiang’s case might only be the tip of the iceberg. How many more retired officers have signed “surrender agreements?”

In 2011, retired air force general Hsia Ying-chou (夏瀛洲) told a gathering of retired generals from both sides of the Strait in Beijing: “From now on, we should stop making distinctions between the Republic of China Army and the People’s Liberation Army [PLA]. We are all China’s army.”

In 2021, retired lieutenant general Kao An-kuo (高安國), former director of the office of former army commander-in-chief Huang Hsing-chiang (黃幸強), posted a video on YouTube in which he called on military officers and the public alike to overthrow the “fraudulent” Democratic Progressive Party regime “to achieve the historical mission of the unification of China.”

While the army was silent on Hsia’s statement, former president Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) consoled him when he faced a public backlash over the incident. However, leopards cannot change their spots, and Hsia later said that the PLA has the right to patrol the airspace to the southwest of Taiwan.

Wu once said: “We are not spies for the CCP.” However, appearing on a progam on Phoenix TV in China, in which they were talking about plans for the CCP to counter the US army, he used the word “we.” This Freudian slip is enough to reveal where his true allegiance lies.

Is this the so-called spirit of the Whampoa Military Academy — the school set up by former president Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石) to produce commanders to take out the CCP? Chiang would have turned over in his grave if he could see or hear Wu now.

Back in Chiang’s time, Wu would have been executed on the spot. Now that execution is not an option, we can only urge him to stop sucking up to the CCP.

Paul Lin is a political commentator.

Translated by Rita Wang


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