Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Ma Ying-jeou, Professional Student?

I've alluded in the past to allegations that Ma Ying-jeou spied on his fellow students during his stints as a student overseas. The foreign media, always eager to report negative comments about Chen Shui-bian, has somehow failed to acknowledge the widespread rumors and comments on Ma's past as servant and scion of the one-party state. Indeed, the systematic refusal to report on Ma's service to the anti-democracy side is simply part of the greater problem of justice in Taiwan's transition to democracy being nonexistent in western media discourse on Taiwan, though innumerable high-quality media articles may be found on the Stasi issue in the former East Germany or the Truth Commission in South Africa. Just another example of Jim Mann's observation that democracy activism in the Chinese sphere isn't as cool as democracy activism in the Soviet sphere.

Today the Taipei Times reported that Ma has filed a lawsuit against DPP officials who have alleged he was more than just a student during his time overseas:

Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) presidential candidate Ma Ying-jeou's (馬英九) office filed a defamation lawsuit yesterday against Cabinet Spokesman Shieh Jhy-wey (謝志偉) for saying Ma served as a "professional student" for the party when he was at Harvard University.

In Taiwan, the term "professional student" usually refers to those who studied abroad on KMT scholarships and worked as campus spies for the party, reporting on pro-independence Taiwanese students.

Shieh made the accusations on Monday at an event marking the 26th anniversary of the death of Chen Wen-chen (陳文成), a professor at Carnegie Mellon University who was found dead at National Taiwan University after being questioned by Taiwan Garrison Command officers in 1981.

Shieh said that Chen and other Taiwanese studying abroad had been put on the KMT's blacklist because they criticized the party.

The KMT's student spies should be held responsible for any deaths of those they reported on, Shieh said.

Ma should explain whether he had monitored the activities of Taiwanese students and collected information for the party while he studied law at Harvard from 1974 to 1981, Shieh said.

Ma spokesman Lo Chih-chiang (羅智強) filed the lawsui and urged Shieh to provide solid evidence to back his claims.

"Please show us solid proof when making accusations rather than spreading rumors," Lo said at the Taipei Prosecutors Office.

Shieh's remarks were part of a smear campaign by the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), Lo said.

However, Ma's integrity and efforts to fight for Taiwan's economy would not be affected by DPP's accusations, Lo said.

"We will sue every single person who spreads rumors and smears Ma's reputation," he said.

Ma has previously been accused of working as a student spy by several pro-independence activists and DPP members, including Vice President Annette Lu (呂秀蓮) and DPP Legislator Winston Chen (陳重信).

Lu made similar accusations in 1998 during the Taipei mayoral election, alleging that Ma had served as the editor-in-chief of Boston Periodical, a student publication organized by the KMT.

Ma used that position to write articles opposing Taiwan's independence and reported on the activities of pro-independence students to the KMT, Lu said at the time.

Chen and other DPP members accused Ma of taking pictures at a pro-independence rally in Boston in 1978 initiated by Lu and other Taiwanese students.

Ma has always denied the accusations and urged the DPP to provide solid proof.

"He [Ma] was a typical `professional student.' It is not difficult for you to find out whether I am telling the truth or not," Shieh said.

Quoting an article in Biographical Literature magazine published in June last year, Shieh said that when Ma was doing his internship in New York in March 1981, he wrote an 84-page article about "terrorism and pro-Taiwan independence" in English for the government to use as propaganda against pro-independence activists in the US.

The article, titled "Ma Ho-ling, Ma Ying-jeou, the father and son, and the Revolution and Practice Institute of the KMT," was written by Roger Hsi (習賢德), an associate professor at the Graduate School of Mass Communication at Fu Jen Catholic University.

Ma Ho-ling (馬鶴凌) is Ma Ying-jeou's late father.

The Revolution and Practice Institute was renamed the National Development Institute in 2000.

"Ma also is quoted as saying: `I came here for my graduate school with KMT's Chungshan Scholarship so it is natural for me to do something in return,'" Shieh said. "These quotes can be read in the magazine."

Note the last paragraph in which Ma admits he was a student on a KMT scholarship. It is hard to imagine that there wasn't a quid pro quo for that, since "professional students" were a well-known feature of the KMT's extensive surveillance regime in the US, and students on KMT scholarships were generally held to be spies. Winston Chen, cited in the article above, compiled an entire book of newspaper reports on the topic (as Winston Dang) through the Center for Taiwan International Relations (CTIR) in Washington DC, an organ of the World United Formosans for Independence (WUFI). The book, Taiwangate: Blacklist Policy and Human Rights, was published jointly by CTIR and the Formosan Association for Human Rights (FAHR), a sister organization of FAPA.

Taiwangate consists of articles from US newspapers gathered during the 1980s on spying on campuses and other security state activities. For example, a Wall Street Journal article of March 8, 1982, avers:

Some mention the case of Rita Yeh, formerly a student at the University of Minnesota. Miss Yeh iis currently serving a 14 year prison sentence in Taiwan. During trial on charges of spying for the People's Republic of China, the prosecutor reportedly introduced evidence that was gathered at the Minnesota campus.

The same article, describing the bitter infighting between the servants of the regime and Taiwanese students, described how after Professor Chen Wen-chen's death in Taipei, the cars of pro-KMT students at Ohio State were daubed with sulfuric acid and posters went up on campus demanding that KMT spies leave.

Professor Chen's death sparked a number of articles. On May 17, 1982, Newsweek reported that five different organs of the KMT's security apparatus were hard at work in the US. The topic was also mentioned in House and Senate hearings, according to Newsweek, and Congress eventually would pass legislation against nations conducted spying activities in the US that was aimed at these practices.

When I was doing my masters at George Washington University in 1991, I took an econ course. The class was crowded with Taiwanese students -- the story was that at major universities the Chinese Student Association, the KMT-linked oversight apparatus, maintained a list of approved professors, and this professor was obviously one of them. One day, after the professor and I had engaged in a lengthy discussion about Taiwan and its economic history, an older student buttonholed me out in the hallway and demanded to know my personal information -- where I lived, where I was from, how I knew about Taiwan, who I was married to. I patiently explained to him that I was working for a Taiwan independence organization at that moment, and my data was already on file with his superiors. He vanished.

For many years this history has stayed silent but I suspect we are going to see more of it come out. Not only are these allegations not going to disappear, but with the upcoming movie on Professor Chen Wen-chen's death, apparently at the hands of KMT security forces, this period of surveillance and murder in the US is going to be spotlighted as the Presidential campaign moves into full gear.


Arty said...

LOL, I was from a major University with large amount of Chinese/Taiwanese students. In the 90s, the relationsip between CSA and TSA are very cozy (and don't forget HSA). I mean we all know each others and most student association events are planned together. And I am still in academia, I don't see that much of a divide at all.

The Taipei Kid said...

I remember lots of Taiwanese students in my econ class at University of Oregon as well. Hmmmm.