Taiwanese official says Beijing doesn't understand how democracy works amid spy row

Deputy justice minister says island will handle case of mainland man detained for spying according to its laws

PUBLISHED : Monday, 13 March, 2017, 2:01pm
UPDATED : Monday, 13 March, 2017, 11:14pm

Beijing does not understand Taiwan’s laws or democracy, a senior Taiwanese justice ministry official said on Monday, in the latest spat between the self-ruled island and the mainland, after island authorities detained a mainland man in a suspected spy case.

Deputy justice minister Chen Ming-tang said comments from a senior mainland official that Taiwan was trying to use the case to stir up trouble with Beijing were a misunderstanding.

“This is their misunderstanding of Taiwan’s judicial system and Taiwan’s democratic system. Basically, we will handle this according to law,” Chen said. “We will not make up charges.”

Taiwanese ‘double agent’ jailed for 18 years after decade of spying for mainland China

In an unusual espionage case involving a mainland exchange student, Taiwanese authorities detained a man – Zhou Hongxu, identified as having recently been a university exchange student in Taiwan – on suspicion of breaching national security laws.

Beijing has never renounced the use of force to take back Taiwan, an island it regards as a wayward province. Mainland spy cases in Taiwan usually involve retired Taiwanese military officers.

The spokesman for Beijing’s Taiwan Affairs Office, Ma Xiaoguang, was cited in state media as saying on Friday that media reports alleging the suspect was working on behalf of the office were “deliberate fabrications”.

“I am not familiar with the case,” Ma was cited as saying on Friday.

Taiwanese authorities have said the investigation was ongoing and that information about the case was classified.

Taiwan notified the mainland Ministry of Public Security on Friday after Zhou was detained, Chen said, which was in accordance with a mutual legal assistance pact between Taipei and Beijing.

Chen said ministry officials had not provided a response yet.

The ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.