Chang An-le is accustomed to being on the wrong side of the law. The former gangster, known as the White Wolf, spent 17 years as a fugitive from Taiwanese justice in mainland China and a decade behind bars in the US on drug-trafficking charges.
Now Mr Chang, back in Taiwan since 2013, runs the Chinese Unity Promotion party that backs unification between communist China and democratic Taiwan, which Beijing regards as a renegade province.
Pro-China organisations are in the spotlight as the island’s authorities investigate alleged Chinese efforts to destabilise Taiwan by funding triad gangs, a move that follows a series of clashes between CUP supporters and pro-independence protesters.
The tension comes amid a broader squeeze on Taiwan by Beijing since the election victory last year of President Tsai Ing-wen and her Democratic Progressive party, which wants the island to remain democratic and free.
Mr Chang is quick to defend his supporters, whose most recent alleged violence was against student protesters calling for independence at a cross-strait music festival late last month.
“Chinese people say: if you don’t bother me I won’t bother you,” the 70-year-old told the Financial Times from his office in central Taipei. “But if you bother me, I will bother you back.”
The Criminal Investigation Bureau’s probe into the links between political parties and organised crime will trace the parties’ sources of funding — potentially revealing whether China has funnelled money via illicit channels to fund fledgling pro-unification groups in Taiwan. The CIB has not named the people or organisations it is probing.
Mr Chang says he is no longer a leader of the Bamboo Union, a criminal gang that Taiwan officials believe has 3,000-4,000 members and which last month was accused by Philippine President Rodrigo…