This article was originally published by Radio Free Asia and is reprinted with permission.
Taiwanese prosecutors have indicted two leaders of the island’s minuscule Taiwan People’s Communist Party, or TPCP, on charges that they conspired with China to influence next year’s presidential and legislative elections.
Party Chairman Lin Te-wang and Vice Chairman Cheng Chien-hsin were accused on Oct. 3 of accepting funds and other benefits from the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). They were indicted under the Anti-Infiltration Act and the Civil Servants Election and Recall Act.
Lin was a member of the Central Committee of the Kuomintang (KMT) and a representative of the Taiwanese Business Party in mainland China, according to the Taipei District Prosecutor’s Office. In 2016, he was expelled from the KMT and stood as an independent candidate for Tainan City Council. He founded the TPCP the following year and served as its chairman. Currently, the party has more than 2,000 members.
It is alleged that since 2017, Lin has been in contact with a number of China’s Taiwan Affairs Office (TAO) officials in order to solicit financial assistance from China for business purposes. He also invited them to Taiwan or led a delegation to China for amusement. According to the prosecutor’s office, Lin and Hu Chunguang, deputy director of the United Front Work Department (UFWD) of the CCP’s Central Committee, have been in contact for more than a decade.
According to the CCP, the job of the UFWD in Taiwan entails “implementing the CCP Central Committee’s work on Taiwan, adhering to the ‘One-China principle,’ and uniting Taiwan compatriots at home and abroad.”
The prosecutor’s office also discovered that Lin received instructions from Zhang Chaode, director of the TAO in Yunnan, to run as a candidate for the TPCP in the Tainan City Council election. Following further CCP instructions, in 2022 Lin nominated Cheng to run for Taipei City councilor. During the campaign, he received NT$30,000 (US$927) and US$10,000 in funding from the Taiwan Affairs Office; he also hired individuals at a cost of NT$500 per person to initiate over 20 protests during the visit of former U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Taiwan.
In a 2022 interview to explain his reason for running for office as a TPCP candidate, Cheng said: “After years of pushing for Taiwanese independence by the Democratic Progressive Party, the KMT doesn’t dare promote the concept that they are Chinese [people]. You can see that from the elections in recent years – from Ma Ying-jeou to now – the use of [the Chinese characters for] China in the narrative is slowly disappearing.”
The prosecutor noted that the TPCP, the only legally registered political party in Taiwan with a communist ideology, has become a Chinese agent in recent years, threatening and influencing elections with the use of armed unification in an attempt to undermine Taiwan’s sovereignty and free, democratic and constitutional order. Lin and Cheng have both denied the allegations.
In an interview with Radio Free Asia, the chief executive officer of the Taiwan Inspiration Association, David Lai, said China’s fastidious approach of using a small party over an elaborate campaign to catch the public off guard while being able to infiltrate every level of the society thoroughly, was evident as seen in the case of the TPCP.
“By disseminating [information] through various small groups, they were able to better target people’s psychology to achieve breakthrough effects. This is the current methodology – fake news and use of a small party. Through different grassroots groups, they connect the dots with money, and then from dots to a complete picture, from the countryside to the urban areas.”
Lai added that in recent years, there have been numerous instances of communist spies and Taiwanese individuals disseminating propaganda on behalf of China. In addition to the fact that the relevant laws are inadequate and the penalties are less severe than in other countries, the lack of adversary consciousness among the Taiwanese is a significant problem.
He also noted that it is still possible to establish a communist party in Taiwan, despite the fact that the CCP is considered an enemy of Taiwan, since the Constitution guarantees the freedom of association and the government does not impose additional restrictions.
According to the Ministry of the Interior, a political party’s name cannot be conflated with that of a government agency, and there are no additional restrictions. As long as there are 100 members, a political party can be established in accordance with the procedure, but members must be recommended to compete for public office within four years of the party’s formation or the party will be dissolved. Currently, there are 92 political parties in Taiwan, while as many as 293 have been dissolved or abolished.