As top brass defect, an extra history lesson won't help
The China Post news staffWith barely any fanfare, Taiwan prosecutors indicted two retired top brass on Wednesday for leaking secrets to Beijing.
March 2, 2013, 12:02 am TWN
One, a former military intelligence officer surnamed Chen Shu-lung, is charged with passing on data about anti-China activists in Taiwan. The other, retired General Chen Chu-fan, is accused of introducing the agent to his Chinese handler.
These two are only the latest in a recent string of military spy catches: Prosecutors indicted retired Lieutenant Chian Ching-kuo this January, while the Taiwan High Court sentenced retired Air Force Lieutenant-Colonel Yuan Hsiao-feng to 12 life sentences last month. Also last month, the Ministry of Defense stated in a tightlipped press release that Admiral Hsu Chung-hua and two other senior military officers are currently under investigation for shipping classified maps and charts across the strait.
These cases involve serious security breaches threatening not just Taiwan's classified information, but also the United States' willingness to trust Taiwan as a political partner and the military's reputation with the Taiwan people. So as the cases have unfolded, the ruling Kuomintang (KMT) has worked hard to contain reports in local media, stressing again and again that the motives behind treason are simple and even superficial. Some of the officers thirsted for cash, while others hankered for revenge against a necessarily restrictive military establishment, according to the party. In the highest-profile spy bust to date, KMT lawmakers and the state news agency emphasized that Major General Lo Hsien-che (羅賢哲) betrayed his country after being lured by a woman in Bangkok.
But these traitors are ostensibly honorable, financially successful and trained for decades in Taiwan's pan-blue military culture. Lo is from a hard-line KMT family, and the ex-general indicted this week has directed a party chapter since retirement. With cases like these, a plausible motive behind treason could be loyalty: loyalty to the old, nearly irrelevant party line of one China called the Republic of China.
That's a motive the so-called new KMT has been unable to face. After standing by its reunification dreams for four decades, the ruling party under President Ma Ying-jeou is pedaling away as speedily as it can. This year, the distance was palpable in state coverage of the 228 Incident, which called it “brutal crackdown” by the Kuomintang of 1947. At a commemorative ceremony yesterday, Ma urged the Ministry of Education to add lessons on the crackdown to the public-school curriculum.
During his term, Ma has done much-needed spring cleaning for his party. But not all of Taiwan can surrender the old KMT as easily as he. The old soldiers were raised on a diet of reunification slogans, and taught to bristle at the Rape of Nanking but know nothing of atrocities at home. Many identify as ethnically Chinese, and some believe that the People's Republic of China cannot be forever. And as we have seen, a few in this generation are retired but willing to work for the interests of their country – perhaps with people across the strait, and perhaps to facilitate shifts in the PRC and an ultimate rapprochement.
For this generation, more public-school lessons about the 228 Incident cannot erase the old values. And maybe nothing can. Taiwan must stem its information hemorrhage, but how it can do so is anybody's guess. This, however, is for certain: The motives that drive cross-strait treason are not simple, and can never be addressed by refusing to acknowledge what they are.