Taiwan’s National Security Bureau (NSB) on Monday confirmed a local media report that the Chinese government established a branch office at one of the country’s top universities to poach Taiwanese IC talent.
Asked by lawmakers to comment on the report in the Liberty Times on Monday, NSB Deputy Director-General Chen Chin-kuang (陳進廣) said Taiwan’s national security authorities are fully aware of the situation.
Although Chen did not provide any further details, given the fact that it is the responsibility of the Ministry of Education (MOE) to supervise the office at Hsinchu-based National Tsing Hua University (NTHU), he added that the NSB has learned the establishment of the office did not follow related regulations.
According to the Chinese-language Liberty Times report, the office is operated by the Cross-Strait Tsinghua Research Institute (CSTRI).
The institute was founded in Xiamen in 2015 by the alumni association of Taiwan’s NTHU and the Beijing-based Tsinghua University, together with Xiamen City government.
It opened the branch office at Hsinchu-based NTHU on April 28, 2016, which has been responsible for recruiting IC talent from Taiwan to work in China, the report said.
However, recruitment operations were conducted without first getting permission from Taiwan’s government, which violates the Act Governing Relations between the People of the Taiwan Area and the Mainland Area, the law covering cross-strait exchanges, the report cited unnamed government officials as saying.
Asked to comment on whether the office is private or acting under the instructions of the Chinese government, Chen said there are no private organizations in China as all public or private organizations are under Chinese Communism Party (CCP) control.
The Chinese government has actively sought to poach high-tech, semiconductor talent from Taiwan as it faces a shortage of such talent in China, according to Chen.
In fact, it is estimated that China currently has a shortage of about 600,000 specialists in the field, he added.
Meanwhile, the MOE said it received notification from the Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) last month that the establishment of the office violated Article 40-2 of the Act Governing Relations between the People of the Taiwan Area and the Mainland Area.
The article stipulates that no non-profit organization from China can establish a branch in Taiwan to engage in business activities unless given prior permission to do so, the MOE said in a press release.
Based on the provisions of that law, the MOE will fine any organization found to have violated the law up to NT$500,000 (US$17,963) and has asked for the office to be closed.
In response, NTHU said it has nothing to do with the Cross-Strait Tsinghua Research Institute’s Hsinchu office.
The institute was partly founded by several NTHU alumni but has no direct relationship with the university itself, it said in a press release.
The institute rented an office on NTHU’s Hsinchu campus via the Tze-Chiang Foundation of Science & Technology, a foundation founded by NTHU alumni, it said.
Meanwhile, the foundation head said that the office has not been open for a very long time.
After receiving instructions from the MOE on Monday, NTHU said the foundation has asked the institute to close its office in Hsinchu with immediate effect.
Commenting on the same issue, MAC Minister Chiu Tai-san (邱太三) told lawmakers earlier Monday that the MAC first learned of the office in July before asking the MOE in August to clarify whether it violated related laws.
The MAC will punish the school authorities if they are confirmed as having violated related laws, he added.
He also said government authorities rarely investigate local academic institutions to preserve academic freedom.
However, the latest case at NTHU serves as a reminder that a thorough check on all higher education institutes in Taiwan may be necessary to make sure they do not become loopholes for law breaking, he added.
National Tsing Hua University was founded in Beijing. After the Chinese Civil War, the then-president of the university, Mei I-chi (梅貽琦), and other academics fled to Taiwan with the retreating Kuomintang government.
In 1956, they reestablished NTHU in Hsinchu, which has since remained independent and distinct from Beijing’s Tsinghua University.
The two Tsinghua universities regularly undertake academic exchanges.
Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel