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Taiwan denies donating NT$1 billion in support of Hong Kong protest

2019/06/20 18:16:38

Hundreds of thousands of Hong Kongers take to the streets in protest against a controversial extradition bill that would have allowed people in the former British territory to be sent to China to face trial. (CNA file photo)

Taipei, June 20 (CNA) The Presidential Office said Thursday that a rumor circulating on social media about the Taiwan government donating NT$1 billion (US$32 million) to support the recent massive street protests in Hong Kong was "totally fake."

The Presidential Office has asked the police to investigate the fake information, which has been making the rounds on social media since Tuesday, spokesperson Ting Yun-kung (丁允恭) said.

Ting said the "totally fake" allegation first appeared on a Facebook account that was also responsible for spreading false rumors in 2018 to influence Taiwan's local government elections, in which the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) suffered a crushing defeat.

Fake allegations could pose a threat to national security and the development of democracy in Taiwan and may impact the 2020 presidential election, Ting said, while accompanying President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) on a visit to Chih Nan Temple in Taipei's Wenshan District.

The people of Taiwan should be vigilant against potential malicious attacks in the form of false information originating in other countries, Ting said.

According to the Criminal Investigation Bureau (CIB), it received a report from the Presidential Office Wednesday that a Facebook user named Li Chieh (李杰) was spreading false information about the Tsai administration.

In a post on Tuesday, Li wrote that while Tsai's administration had not spent a dollar on dengue fever prevention in Kaohsiung City, it had donated NT$1 billion in support of the "violent" protests in Hong Kong, the CIB said.

The bureau told CNA that Li's IP address was in Singapore, as was that of another Facebook user called Li Jung-kuei (李榮貴), who had been spreading false rumors in the run up to Taiwan's local government elections last year.

In one of his posts last year, Li Jung-kuei said the DPP mayoral candidate in Kaohsiung Chen Chi-mai (陳其邁) and his father had NT$2.2 billion worth of overseas assets, according to the CIB.

Chen later lost the election to Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜) of the opposition Kuomintang (KMT).

The CIB said it is very likely that the two Lis are the same person, as their IP addresses are both in Singapore, they use the same profile photo on Facebook, and their modus operandi in spreading false rumors is similar.

The bureau said it had investigated 171 cases of fake news between June and Nov. 24 last year, and 20 cases from January to May this year.

With the approach of the presidential and legislative elections on Jan. 11 next year, it is likely that the incidence of fake news will increase, the CIB said.

To prevent interference in its elections, Taiwan has set up a 54-member task force to identify the source of fake news and try to prevent its spread, the CIB said.

The bureau said it is also working with Google and Facebook to combat fake news.

On June 6 and 16, hundreds of thousands of Hong Kongers took to the streets in protest against a controversial extradition bill that would have allowed people in the former British territory to be sent to China to face trial.

The protesters called for the bill to be withdrawn, citing widespread concerns over a lack of trust in China's judiciary system.

On Tuesday, Hong Kong's Chief Executive Carrie Lam offered a "sincere and solemn" apology to the public and said that unless her government could address the people's concerns about the draft law, it would "not proceed with the legislative exercise again."

(By Huang Li-yun , Wen Kuei-hsiang, Yu-Hsiang and Chung Yu-chen)
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