A high-ranking security official in Taiwan stated on Wednesday that China has a variety of methods for interfering in the upcoming January elections. These methods range from military threats to the dissemination of false information and even manipulating public opinion polls.
Before elections, Taiwan consistently raises concerns about potential interference from Beijing. China claims ownership of the democratically ruled island and is accused of trying to influence the results in favor of candidates who are more supportive of China.
“The Chinese Communist Party’s interference in elections takes on various forms,” stated Tsai Ming-yen, Director-General of Taiwan’s National Security Bureau, in a session of the parliamentary committee.
According to Mr. Tsai, China may resort to military force, economic manipulation, or spreading false information in order to present voters with a false ultimatum of “war or peace” during the election, in an attempt to intimidate them.
“We are closely monitoring the collaboration between the Chinese Communist Party and polling and public relations firms, as there is a concern that they may manipulate opinion polls and use them to interfere in elections,” he stated, refraining from mentioning any specific companies.
The Taiwan Affairs Office of China did not respond to phone calls for comment. Currently, China is observing its week-long national holiday.
The current Vice President of Taiwan, William Lai, who belongs to the Democratic Progressive Party and supports Taiwan’s distinct identity from China, is predicted to win the upcoming presidential election based on public surveys.
China views Mr. Lai and his party as separatists and has consistently declined their invitations for negotiations. Mr. Lai asserts that he does not aim to alter the current state of affairs between Taiwan and China, but believes that the people of Taiwan should have the ultimate say in determining their own fate.
Since the 2020 election, China has escalated its military presence near Taiwan, frequently deploying warships and fighter jets in the surrounding waters and airspace.
Mr. Tsai said China’s most recent drills close to Taiwan, which started last month and have been described by Taiwan’s defense minister as “abnormal,” were virtually the same as those in previous years in terms of their focus, such as landing exercises.
However, there was a larger presence of aircraft and ships this time around, and the People’s Liberation Army Rocket Force (PLARF), responsible for China’s conventional and nuclear missiles, conducted more practice firings.
Mr. Tsai mentioned that this could be linked to Chinese President Xi Jinping’s attempt to increase his authority over the PLARF. The PLARF, a sector of China’s military, has recently gained attention after its top leaders were unexpectedly replaced by outside commanders at the end of July.
The Chinese Ministry of Defense did not provide a response to comment requests either.