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Exposé lifts the lid on shady actions by pro-Beijing groups

An investigative documentary aired by the Qatar-based al-Jazeera news channel has shed more light on shadowy political groups loyal to Beijing that operate in Taiwan, and lists some of their dubious tactics.

The report revealed that a common strategy used to promote anti-independence platforms is to pay people and hire lobbyists to attend events or organize mass petitions to sway public sentiment.

One group featured in the exposé is the Taipei-based Concentric Patriotism Association (CPA), whose members have previously stirred up trouble by assaulting pro-independence supporters and members of the Falun Gong — deemed by Beijing to be an “evil cult”.

Al-Jazeera sent an undercover reporter posing as a visitor from mainland China, and he was soon recruited by the CPA.

The executive director of the CPA, who also is from the mainland, told the reporter his group would pay people NT$800-900 (US$26-30) per day as an honorarium for tasks like waving the Chinese flag in the streets of Taipei and chanting anti-separatism slogans at pro-Beijing rallies regularly held in front of the island’s Presidential Palace.

The CPA reportedly gets money from middlemen, including the many Taiwanese business executives with firms on the mainland who are at the beck and call of Communist Party cadres. Money has to be sent through a circuitous route because Taiwanese security laws ban political groups from getting funds directly from the mainland. Some is reportedly transferred via third places like Hong Kong and Macau.

According to the CPA member, these “patriotic” Taiwanese businessmen are rewarded with economic and political perks, and even receive allowances or tax cuts.

But when recruiting flag-wavers the association always prefers to enlist mainlanders rather than Taiwanese, and checks a prospective member’s China-issued ID card to authenticate his background.

“I don’t trust Taiwanese. I only trust Chinese, because as Chinese we all have relatives in China,” said the executive director. “You cannot disclose what we do here to outsiders. If you do that, you might not be affected [since you are in Taiwan], but your relatives back in China may be in trouble.”

Another allegation is that the pro-Beijing groups maintain close contacts with members of Taiwan-based triads, and that some even operate under the name of affiliated clansman societies.

The Taiwanese police authority said its investigators would try to verify the al-Jazeera report before deciding on any follow-up actions.

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