Who’s Waving Those PRC Flags (and Beating People Up) at Taipei 101?They’re a pain in the rear end and Communist stooges. But police and city authorities won’t touch them
In a post published elsewhere earlier this year, I discussed the small group of pro-unification activists that materializes, on an almost daily basis, in front of the Xinyi entrance of the Taipei 101 skyscraper. Rain or shine, come 2pm the handful of people, armed with large People’s Republic of China (PRC) flags, speakers, and pamphlets, impose their agitprop on whomever happens to be walking by, which includes the large number of Chinese tourists who are more than happy to participate in the whole affair and to have their picture taken with the flag. Needless to say, those activities, which began sometime in late 2013, have been much of an annoyance to the residents and workers in the area.
Nearly half a year later, the troublemakers are still there, mixing with tourists and vying for space with Falun Gong practitioners who have been just as persistent in occupying the square in front of the tower. It doesn’t take a nuclear physicist to realize that this is a potentially explosive mix, and in fact several incidents have occurred. One Falun Gong member was repeatedly punched by a female member of the pro-unification group, and the (much) older gentlemen who wave the flags have occasionally used their flagpoles and placards to hit people who disagree with their ideology. There have also been skirmishes, especially when pro-Taiwan independence activists have turned up at the site, as they did earlier today.
Councilors have raised the matter at the Taipei City Council and confronted Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌). Besides the fact that the rallies are a real annoyance and have surpassed legal noise thresholds, Chinese citizens are getting away with participating in political activities in Taiwan, a violation of current laws that other foreigners have been punished for. Some people have argued that allowing such public displays, however “extreme,” is not necessarily a bad thing, as it shows the virtues of openness to visiting Chinese tourists who can only dream of such freedoms back in their country. While there is some merit to this argument, it loses all legitimacy when violence gets involved. Pro-unification elements are now behaving in a way that might be regarded as “normal” in China, but that is not welcome in democratic Taiwan: they’re attacking people, and police simply looks on.
What has been done about the problem, which risks undermining the city’s image with foreign tourists and cost Taipei 101 and neighboring commercial offices rent opportunities? Nothing. Despite several complaints to Taipei 101 management and to Taipei City Hall, this has been allowed to continue. How can we explain this, especially at a time when police, even prior to the Sunflower Movement’s occupation of the Legislative Yuan and Executive Yuan earlier this year, have proven so intolerant of public demonstrations? The answer probably lies in the nature of the people involved and their deep connections with highly influential people. Some preliminary findings:
The woman in the video who is seen punching the hapless Falun Gong practitioner has been a regular at such events. She was also present on April 1 during the protest organized by “ex-” Bamboo Union gangster and pro-unification “politician” Chang An-le (張安樂), a.k.a. “White Wolf.” Her name is Zhang Xiuye (張秀葉), a founding member of the pro-Chinese Communist Party (CCP) Chinese Patriotic Alliance Association, also known as the Concentric Patriotism Alliance (中華愛國同心會), which since its creation in 1993 has often been the object of public complaints over harassment and physical aggression, earning its members the sobriquet “Communist thugs in Taiwan.” Interestingly, a source has revealed that Zhang Xiuye was born in Shanghai and moved to Taiwan sometime around 1993 after marrying a Taiwanese. Prior to moving to Taiwan, Zhang reportedly worked for an “unnamed NGO.” She and her husband divorced soon afterwards, and may have had two children together.
Miss Zhang’s “boss,” Zhou Qinjun (周慶峻), is also a regular presence at the rallies in front of Taipei 101, and has led other activities against the Falun Gong at other venues in Taipei, including Sun Yat-Sen Memorial Hall. Zhou fled China in 1961, and is the head of the aforementioned Alliance and chairman of the equally pro-unification China Democratic Progressive Party (CDPP, 中國民主進歩黨). The Bamboo Union’s Chang is listed as “honorary chairman” of the CDPP, and reports indicate that Chang and Zhou have been cooperating. Zhou was reportedly charged with assault several years ago. Perhaps more interestingly, he has been involved in various forums and meetings with pro-unification elements within the CCP, including the China Council for the Promotion of Peaceful National Reunification (CCPPR, 中國和平統一促進會). It is also believed that Zhou was invited to participate in a large cross-strait forum organized in 2012 or 2013. Wu Po-hsiung (吳伯雄), a former KMT chairman, is believed to have been instrumental in securing Zhou’s participation.
As the learned source admitted, it is difficult to find a “smoking gun” on formal links between organizations like the Alliance, the CDPP, or the White Wolf’s Unification Party and the Chinese intelligence apparatus.* However, there is ample anecdotal evidence to suggest at least some connections with the CCP United Front Work Department, the General Political Department (GPD) Liaison Department (GPD/LD), and the Ministry of State Security (MSS).
Given all this, it wouldn’t be surprising if Taiwanese law enforcement were reluctant to crack down on Zhou, Zhang, Chang and others, regardless of the illegality of their activities or their recourse to violence against unarmed civilians. Either they are feared, or their deep connections within the KMT and CCP are making them “untouchables.”
- For example, Zhou has been in contact with Zhu Zhengming (朱正明), vice president of the World Guang Gong Culture (世界關公文化) organization and director of the Hubei Provincial Committee United Front Work Department. The Chinese intelligence apparatus often uses cultural organizations, art galleries, and so on, as fronts for intelligence collection, recruitment, and psychological warfare.
J. Michael Cole is editor in chief of Thinking Taiwan, a senior non-resident fellow at the China Policy Institute, University of Nottingham, and an Associate researcher at the French Center for Research on Contemporary China (CEFC) in Taipei.