Business|Taiwan Says Alibaba-Linked e-Commerce Site a Security Risk
TAIPEI, Taiwan — Taiwan declared an e-commerce platform linked to China’s Alibaba Group a potential security risk and told its operator Monday to register as a company from the rival mainland or dispose of its ownership stake.
The order adds to mounting pressure on Chinese companies in the United States and other countries over security concerns.
Taiwan and China split in 1949 during a civil war. They have no official relations but thriving trade and investment ties. Taiwan closely watches those links to avoid being dominated by its giant neighbor, which has threatened to invade the island.
Taobao Taiwan is operated by a separate company, British Claddagh Venture Investment Ltd., but Alibaba Group’s ownership stake in that company allows it to control the consumer-to-consumer platform in violation of Taiwanese rules, the Ministry of Economic Affairs said.
The user agreement for Taobao Taiwan gives permission to “send the member’s transaction data back to the Alibaba Group server in China,” the ministry said. “There may be an information security risk.”
British Claddagh has six months to ask permission to operate as a Chinese company or else “withdraw the investment,” the ministry said. It gave no indication what restrictions that new status might bring but said the company faces a fine of up to 410,000 New Taiwan dollars ($14,000) if it fails to comply.
Alibaba Group, headquartered in Hangzhou, southwest of Shanghai, is the world’s biggest e-commerce company by total sales volume.
Alibaba’s 29% stake in British Claddagh is below the 30% legal limit, but the shareholding structure allows the Chinese company to control it by vetoing decisions, the ministry said.
Alibaba Group declined to comment.
Taiwan also is among governments that have imposed curbs on the use of telecom equipment from Huawei Technologies Ltd., the world’s biggest maker of switching gear. The U.S. government has declared Huawei a security risk, which the company denies, and is lobbying allies to avoid its technology as they upgrade to next-generation telecom networks.
Meanwhile, the White House is pressing the Chinese owner of TikTok to sell the short-video app due to concerns it might transfer users’ information to China. President Donald Trump has issued a sweeping but vague order barring U.S. companies from dealing with TikTok and WeChat, a popular Chinese messaging service.
TAIPEI (Reuters) – Taiwan faces an increasingly difficult position as China pressures the democratic island to accept conditions that would turn it into the next Hong Kong, its top diplomat told visiting U.S. Health Secretary Alex Azar on Tuesday.
Taiwan’s Foreign Minister Joseph Wu speaks during a news conference in Taipei, Taiwan, August 11, 2020. REUTERS/Ann Wang
Azar arrived in Taiwan on Sunday as the highest-level U.S. official to visit in four decades, a trip condemned by China which claims the island as its own.
Chinese fighter jets on Monday briefly crossed the median line of the sensitive Taiwan Strait, and were tracked by Taiwanese anti-aircraft missiles, part of what Taipei sees as a pattern of harassment by Beijing.
Azar’s trip to Taiwan has also coincided with a further crackdown in Chinese-ruled Hong Kong, where on Monday police arrested media tycoon Jimmy Lai under a tough new national security law.
“Our life has become increasingly difficult as China continues to pressure Taiwan into accepting its political conditions, conditions that will turn Taiwan into the next Hong Kong,” Foreign Minister Joseph Wu said at a joint media appearance with Azar in Taipei.
China has proposed a “one country, two systems” model of autonomy to get Taiwan to accept its rule, much as it uses in Hong Kong. The proposal has been rejected in Taiwan by all major parties and the government.
Wu said Taiwan was lucky to have friends like Azar in the United States to help fight for Taiwan’s international space.
“We know this is not just about Taiwan’s status, but about sustaining democracy in the face of authoritarian aggression. Taiwan must win these battles so democracy prevails.”
Washington broke off official ties with Taipei in 1979 in favour of Beijing but is still Taiwan’s biggest arms supplier. The Trump administration has made strengthening its support for the democratic island a priority as relations with China sour over issues including human rights and trade.
Azar is in Taiwan to offer not just the administration’s support for its democracy, but to learn about its successful fight against the coronavirus pandemic. Taiwan has kept its infection numbers low thanks to early and effective prevention efforts.
Azar said the world should recognise Taiwan’s health accomplishments, pointing to Taiwan’s exclusion from the World Health Organization (WHO) due to Chinese objections, which considers Taiwan merely a wayward province.
“Especially during a pandemic, but at all times, international organisations should not be places to play politics. They must be venues for constructive, open dialogue and cooperation.”
Both China and the WHO say Taiwan has been provided with the help it needs during the pandemic.
Reporting by Yimou Lee; Writing by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Lincoln Feast.
Taiwan on Tuesday said it was “disappointed and angry” with the World Health Organization (WHO) for not inviting Taipei to join this year’s World Health Assembly (WHA) which kicked off Monday.
Taiwan has been lobbying hard to join this year’s meeting as an observer after its success with containing the coronavirus outbreak. But it faced strong opposition from China, which claims Taiwan as its province with no right to its own diplomatic representation.
“We feel disappointed and angry about WHO’s decision of not inviting Taiwan to join this year’s WHA. We feel we have so much to share about our successful experiences in this Covid-19 outbreak response” said Yi-Chun Lo, deputy director general at Taiwan Centers for Disease Control.
On Monday, Taiwan’s foreign minister Joseph Wu said the issue of its participation would be put off until later in the year, so the assembly can focus on the coronavirus this time.
Despite its proximity to China, Taiwan has only reported 440 coronavirus cases and seven deaths so far even without a large-scale lockdown.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Monday said that the U.S. condemns Taiwan’s exclusion from the WHA.
“No one disputes that Taiwan has mounted one of the world’s most successful efforts to contain the pandemic to date, despite its close proximity to the original outbreak in Wuhan, China,” Pompeo said in a strongly worded statement.
Pompeo, a vocal China critic, also criticized Beijing’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak.
“Taiwan is a model world citizen, while the PRC (People’s Republic of China) continues to withhold vital information about the virus and its origins, deny access to their scientists and relevant facilities, censor discussion of the pandemic within China and on Chinese social media properties, and casts blame widely and recklessly,” said Pompeo.
Taiwan has been praised globally for its virus containment measures that included early control measures at the borders, in the community and in healthcare settings. It also uses a sophisticated contact tracing and quarantine network, Lo told CNBC’s “Street Signs” on Tuesday. The island has not posted any domestic cases for more than a month and is confident that there is “zero” community spread at the moment, said Lo.
He told CNBC the island shares concerns that China was not transparent with information about the outbreak at its onset. The Taiwan CDC deputy director general also said the WHO did not seriously regard information from Taiwan in December that suggested possible human-to-human transmission. The WHO has disputed Taiwan’s claims, saying that the island had not explicitly communicated that information.
Due to its exclusion from the WHO, Taiwan is relying on its own efforts in the race for a vaccine with health authorities working with academia and other industry partners, said Lo.
“Our major concern is (that) because Taiwan is not included in WHO’s network, there might not be fair opportunity for Taiwan to get a share (from) the global vaccination program ,” said Lo.
“So we have to have our own manufacturers (really work) very hard on producing vaccine for our domestic purpose,” he said, adding that Taiwan would be happy to share any successful vaccine with the global community.
Lo said Taiwan’s communication with the WHO is “minimal” even now and that it is mostly an observer in the WHO’s clinical trial, infectious disease control and vaccine trial networks with no authority or right for information.
“We are trying very hard to participate in the networks as much as possible, but the opportunity (has) not (been) granted fairly by the WHO so far since the start of the outbreak,” said Lo.