The Republic of China in-exile continues to lose diplomatic support in the world as seven countries have dropped recognition of the ROC during the tenure of President Tsai Ing-wen leaving only fifteen small countries to share ambassadors. Meanwhile, ROC efforts to break an advocacy group, Taiwan Civil Government, with prosecution of its leaders for fraud and the destruction of TCG headquarters, have apparently strengthened the group. TCG seeks to expel the ROC from Taiwan with American assistance.
One sign of strength is a new $1.2 million lobbying contract with Global Vision Communications. Past events sponsored by TCG and arranged by GVC have attracted the likes of Vice President Mike Pence, presidential counselor Kellyanne Conway, and Senators Ben Sasse and Joe Manchin. The most recent politician to spend some face time with a TCG official is Senator Roy Blunt. The Missouri legislator is Chairman of the Republican Policy Committee and also heads the powerful Senate Rules Committee. Blunt also serves on the Senate Intelligence Committee as does Senator Manchin.
Roger and Julian Lin, along with Tsai Tsai-yuan, are being prosecuted for fraud for purported false claims about the benefits of the TCG identity card. They were arrested in May 2018, upsetting a scheduled reception with Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross. The Lins were held incommunicado for five months until released on steep bail following a full-page ad in the New York Times paid for by TCG complaining about the human rights violation. Tsai Tsai-yuan, a former White Terror political prisoner, was quickly released to avoid public sympathy although he still faces charges of fraud.
ROC prosecutors, eager to shut down the group, are seeking to confiscate assets, have obtained demolition orders, ordered surveillance of TCG parades, and are dragging out the prosecution of the three leaders with a series of hearings and continuances. Deprived of a jury trial–the ROC doesn’t believe in such things–the defendants are accused of cheating TCG members with false claims. One problem for the prosecution has been purported victims that deny their victim status and thus not called to court where they could correct the prosecutors in front of the judge.
One supposed victim of the TCG leadership is himself a high-ranking leader of the group, William Tseng. Initially viewed as a suspect, a dozen police showed up at Tseng’s house without a warrant during the island-wide raid that busted the Lins. Tseng and his wife had to undergo four interrogations each before prosecutors decided to name them victims instead of charge them as defendants. Tseng has complained,“How can they call me a victim? I am no victim although they have treated me like a suspect.”
Tseng, a world traveler, often leads TCG delegations on their international trips to gain support for the cause. Tseng’s most recent trip to Washington was to attend the annual White House Correspondents dinner where he wined and dined with elected officials, reporters, and lobbyists. Tseng has not disclosed his conversation with Senator Blunt but likely it was not small talk or a chat about the weather. The fraud arrests have had a chilling effect and thus far no politician has been willing to talk on the record about their contacts with TCG.
The new lobbying contract calls for six $200,000 payments stretched out into 2020. Events arranged by GVC and other expenses will come in on top of the $1.2 million leading to a probable outlay of several million dollars during the upcoming campaign season.
The contract between TCG and GVC was disclosed by the Department of Justice pursuant to the Foreign Agents Registration Act. One new addition to the renewed annual lobbying contract is language requiring both parties to comply with all laws. The stated purpose of the contract is spelled out in the FARA disclosure. “The activities include educating US government officials, influencers and the general public on the economy and strategic importance of Taiwan. In addition, working towards closer ties between Taiwan and the United States and working towards international recognition of Taiwan by the United States, the United Nations and countries of the world.”
TCG has been courting the Republican Party after being ignored by President Barack Obama. The group hosted several Trump inaugural events, posted advertisements congratulating Donald Trump on his election, and has large portrait photos of Trump hanging in TCG offices. The group waves the American flag along with its own banner in noisy parades and rallies.
Taiwan’s longstanding unresolved international status, since World War II, has led to a proliferation of small parties and groups seeking independence from the exiled Republic of China imposed on the island by the United States at the end of the war. The San Francisco Peace Treaty of 1952, formally ending the war with Japan, left Taiwan’s status unresolved. As the major combatant against the Japanese on Formosa, as Taiwan was then called, the United States remains under international law the principal occupying power. The unique relationship of the United States and Taiwan is embodied further in the Taiwan Relations Act and more recently in the Taiwan Travel Act.
Taiwan Civil Government members dress alike in black suits with black caps and group lapel pins. The uniforms have led to false accusations the group is a cult of some sort. TCG insistence that the United States be part of the resolution of Taiwan’s sovereignty also sets them apart from many other pro-independence groups and parties. Largely ignored by the Taiwanese news media, TCG has quietly grown over the decade of its existence and has made inroads in Washington’s power circles well beyond that of most Taiwanese advocacy organizations.