Taipei district prosecutors led raids on a local publishing company and its distributor on Wednesday to seize at least 500 copies of a kiss-and-tell book by a former top spy trainer.Wu Hsin-chien, the publisher of “Thirty-Year Career of an Intelligence Agent,” said all 17 copies in his office were also seized.“We have planned to print 1,000 copies for the first issue, but not all of them are yet ready for release,” he lamented.The book went on sale online on November 10.“Why can’t we publish the book in Taiwan now under democracy,” he asked.The author, Hsiao Tai-fu, was released without bail, though the prosecution wanted to detain him unless he could bail himself out with NT$500,000.
That is another case of pre-publication censorship.Prosecutors took action at the request of the National Security Bureau, whose director-general Shi Hwei-yow wants to bring Hsiao, a former deputy director of training, to justice for security compromise.Incidentally, it’s the second censorship case the NSB initiated in five years.The Next magazine was raided in 2002 for running a story about an NSB slush fund involving former President Lee Teng-hui.
Hsiao pleaded innocent before a Taipei district court judge who heard the case brought against him.“I’ve never committed any security compromise,” he told the judge, who decided to release him without bail.In fact, Hsiao claimed he had tried to clear his book with the NSB.If there were such grave security compromise as would warrant a court sanction against the publication, the NSB could have taken action right after the online sale close to three weeks before.
Of course, the book which its author calls a training manual for agents, isn’t anything resembling the Pentagon papers in the Nixon era.Hsiao said many instances he cited in the book were public knowledge.There certainly is no reason why Hsiao’s new book should be censored.The NSB and the court must be reminded that a request for a U.S. court sanction against the publication of those top secret papers on the Vietnam War was turned down and freedom of the press was upheld.
We wish to ask the prosecutors if the NSB did convince them that Hsiao had exposed information that might truly threatened Taiwan’s national security.Or did he identify its agents in China to put their safety in danger?If they just went along with the NSB without asking for concrete proof to justify their raids, we cannot but condemn them for an encroachment on freedom of the press in its worst form.