Taipei, Dec. 13 (CNA) The Legislative Yuan passed an amendment Friday that increases jail terms for Taiwanese caught spying and expands the scope of counterintelligence provisions to bolster Taiwan's security against espionage and infiltration activities.
Under the amendment to the National Intelligence Service Act, individuals convicted of collecting state intelligence information will face a jail term of three to 10 years, up from one to seven years previously.
Those caught illegally leaking or handing over state intelligence materials to others will face a sentence of at least seven years behind bars, a change from a sentence of between three and 10 years previously.
In the most serious cases, individuals convicted of spying as well as leaking and giving state intelligence to a foreign or hostile power will be subject to a sentence of between 10 years and life, up from a previous minimum seven-year jail term.
In addition, the statute of limitations on prosecuting an individual for spying that existed previously has been removed.
Beyond stiffening sentences for spying offenses, the amendment also expanded the scope of counterintelligence provisions, extending them to cover potential espionage in areas beyond the traditional military and political realms.
The amendment stipulates that intelligence authorities can now collect, analyze, and use information affecting not only national security and military areas but also foreign and cross-Taiwan Strait affairs, business, technology and public security.
At the same time, more public agencies will be deemed "intelligence agencies" when their operations involve state information.
Those agencies include the Coast Guard Administration, Political Warfare Bureau, Armed Forces Police Command, Investigation Bureau under the Ministry of Justice, the National Immigration Agency and National Police Agency under the Ministry of the Interior, and the Information, Communications and Electronic Force Command under the Ministry of National Defense.
Intelligence agents convicted of profiteering from their work will see their jail terms increase by 50 percent and could be fined up to NT$10 million (US$329,900) for their illegal gains under the new amendment.
Legislator Chao Tien-lin (趙天麟) of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party said the passage of the amendment will better protect Taiwan's people from outside threats and show Taiwan is resolved to deter espionage.