Although you haven’t yet learned about it reading the New York Times, a full page advertisement in the September 18, 2017 edition of the newspaper triggered undercover surveillance on the other side of the world. Julian Lin’s junket to New York City, where she attended a development meeting at the United Nations building, was accompanied by the full-page ad. Julian, wife of Taiwan Civil Government founder Roger Lin, is the group’s diplomatic face to the world. Julian is outspoken against the use of the name Chinese Taipei to describe Taiwan. Both Lins now face the possibility of long prison sentences for alleged fraud by the exiled Republic of China government they seek to expel from Taiwan.
The advertisement, timed for the opening session of the United Nations General Assembly, urged Taiwan’s membership in the international organization. TCG shelled out $114,437 to the newspaper for the space and another $3,525 to a pricey public relations firm for the ad design, for a total cost of $117,962.
The New York Times, considered by many to be the nation’s leading newspaper, was eager to take TCG money for the advertising income. However, editors have made sure the transaction was kept in the sales division and not transferred to a news desk. The newspaper has failed to print a single word about the arrests of its advertisers or the still being revealed story of TCG lobbying in Washington which scored a connection inside the Trump White House with presidential counselor Kellyanne Conway.
Roger Lin is accused of bilking money from donors in pursuit of political fiction. ROC prosecutors claim that Lin’s advocacy for a transitional United States military government is a hoax and that TCG identity cards and vanity license plates are not valid.
At the end of World War II the United States occupied Taiwan until October 1945 when the Navy’s Seventh Fleet landed battle-weary Kuomintang troops on the island, then called Formosa. The soldiers were supposed to be only there temporarily to process Japanese prisoners. However, the Chinese civil war got in the way and dictator Chiang Kai-shek was allowed to escape to Formosa in 1949 after his defeat by Communist revolutionaries led by Mao Tse-tung.
The United States refuses to recognize the Republic of China as a sovereign nation and conducts its “strategic ambiguity” foreign policy under a federal statute, the Taiwan Relations Act. The never-land that is Taiwan has been described by the District of Columbia U.S. Court of Appeals as “political purgatory” which urged then President Barack Obama to “expeditiously” resolve the island’s sovereignty, an action Obama never took.
The confused status of Taiwan, with both the People’s Republic of China and the Republic of China in-exile laying claim to sovereignty, has been fertile ground for a long suppressed Taiwan independence movement. A plethora of political parties and organizations have formed, each urging their own path to independence or statehood, as is the goal of several groups. Taiwan Civil Government formed ten years ago has become one of the most vocal with large rallies, parades, junkets, offices, lobbying in Washington, a magazine advertising campaign, and the full-page New York Times ad.
It was recently revealed in court documents that ROC surveillance of Taiwan Civil Government leaders began on September 22, 2017, the day Julian Lin returned to Taiwan from her visit to the United States. An undercover surveillance team watched Lin’s arrival at the airport and followed Julian’s car to the parking lot of TCG headquarters. The ROC probe was previously thought to have begun in December 2017 after disgruntled TCG “governor” Tsai Chou-peng purportedly visited prosecutors with a list of complainants. It now appears that Tsai did not trigger the investigation but instead made use of an ongoing probe that began as early as August 2, 2017.
The court hearing revealed the Lins have been treated much like political prisoners. The Lins were kept isolated with separate court appearances, held incommunicado in solitary confinement, in bare cells, and without bail. The hearings were held in a small courtroom which restricted the public to eighteen seats and required advance security clearance.
In a twist of irony, although it was a New York Times advertisement in 2017 that began trouble for Roger and Julian Lin, a second full-page New York Times ad in 2018, appealing for help from the United Nations, preceded by a week their release on bail despite prosecution objection.
Prosecutors have carefully avoided treason charges for creating a shadow government and portray the case as a financial crime. However, TCG’s notion that the Republic of China should be expelled from Taiwan is at the heart of the purported hoax, giving the case bad optics. The investigation that began with airport surveillance now promises to be a high-flying trial as Roger Lin explores the clouds of ambiguity that fog Taiwan’s status. This unique crime story is a long way from being over.
CORRECTION NOTICE: This article has been corrected with updated information pushing back the fraud investigation from Sept. 22, 2017 to August 2, 2017.