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Was Gao spying for Taiwan or for China?
Paul Lin
12/14/2003

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Chinese-born academic Gao Zhan recently pleaded guilty to illegally selling restricted US high-tech products that could be used for military purposes to China, as well as tax evasion.

Gao was arrested on charges of spying for Taiwan during her visit to China in February 2001, and was expelled a few months later. Her new case has been widely discussed on the Internet. But people do not really care about the alleged tax evasion. Instead, they mostly focus on whether she is a Chinese spy. The US media even think that China's previous accusations that she was a spy -- which were eventually resolved by US leaders, and even turned her into a "human rights activist" after she returned to the US -- were in fact a swindle. Since the US district court has not yet delivered its final verdict, I can only speculate about this, although it is too soon to come to any conclusions.

First, Gao was apparently selling sensitive technology to China either for money or because she was spying for Beijing. If the latter is the case, the problem would be very serious.

Concerning the charges that Gao had been spying for Taiwan, there are at least three possibilities:

1. She was mistakenly arrested by China due to either poor communication or judgement on the part of China's intelligence systems.

2. The arrest was actually a Chinese trick to win the trust of the US. In fact, the US started an investigation after US customs officials were tipped off about her crimes in the fall of 2000. When she was in China, the US government even conducted a search of her home. To deal with the emergency, Beijing therefore decided to arrest her in order to clear the scholar of all suspicions, making her a "human rights activist," while allowing her to infiltrate international hostile forces.

3. Originally, Gao only wanted to make some money. However, she strongly criticized the Chinese government after she returned to the US. This irritated Beijing, which provided Washington with confidential information on her crimes. Such a cruel method is exactly what Beijing is especially good at.

If Gao really is a Chinese spy, uncovering her crimes is definitely a good thing. If China someday becomes a democratic country, I'm sure a very long list of intelligence agents will be exposed. The Chinese government is good at playing tricks and sending out spies. Both Taiwan and the US should be cautious about this. Recently, the media reported that a Chinese company -- jointly founded by Jiang Mianheng, son of former Chinese president Jiang Zemin, and Taiwanese tycoon Winston Wang -- hired Neil Bush, a younger brother of US President George W. Bush, as a consultant. This case shows that Beijing will resort to any conceivable means to accomplish its goals.

If Gao committed the crimes for money, her actions reflect the thinking of many Chinese scholars in the US: They want to enjoy the freedom and social welfare offered by the US on the one hand, but they also want to profit from China on the other.

The failure of overseas Chinese democracy activists over the past few years has resulted not only from Chinese intelligence agents' infiltration and manipulation, but also from the activists' own selfishness. As the old saying goes: "The times produce their heroes." But many heroes fail to stand up to the test.

This situation occurs not only in the US Chinese community, but also in Taiwan. Perhaps this is a result of the Chinese people's deep-rooted bad nature. As for Gao, she should clarify the matter so that the law might come up with a merciful ruling.

Paul Lin is a political commentator based in New York.

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