Couple charged for ‘bribing’ voters with Covid tests

TAIPEI: A Taiwanese couple is facing multiple charges for allegedly bribing voters with Chinese Covid tests ahead of the island’s local elections, prosecutors said.

Chiu Jui-lien and her husband are reportedly the first indicted for violating the “anti-infiltration law” aimed at countering influence from China – which views self-ruled Taiwan as part of its territory and has vowed to seize the island.

The law, pushed by President Tsai Ing-wen’s ruling party in 2019, bans “hostile” foreign forces from campaigning, lobbying, making political donations or spreading disinformation related to elections.

Chiu, who was running for borough chief in Taipei city, and her husband were indicted on Monday for giving out Chinese Covid tests to solicit votes, the Shihlin district prosecutor’s office said.

The free tests were supplied by the Pingtan Comprehensive Experimental Zone in China’s Fujian province, established in 2009 with the goal of boosting regional development and its bond with Taiwan.

The couple imported 6,000 tests via 60 “dummies” to bypass the required government approval for a shipment of more than 100 kits, according to prosecutors.

They later offered the tests to residents in exchange for their votes in the Nov 26 elections, which Chiu ultimately lost.

The couple were “funded by a source of infiltration” to commit bribery and also violated regulations for importing and supplying medical devices, prosecutors said.

The indictment aims to “ensure that the elections ... will not be infiltrated and interfered by foreign hostile forces to maintain a fair election environment,” the statement said.

China has become more bellicose towards Taiwan under President Xi Jinping, with Beijing ramping up military, diplomatic and economic pressure on Taipei since the 2016 election of Tsai. — AFP

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