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Taiwan

Taipei holds former student from mainland on spy charges

Liaoning man who got MBA on island arrested, in first such case with mainland student

PUBLISHED : Friday, 10 March, 2017, 11:34pm
UPDATED : Friday, 10 March, 2017, 11:34pm

Taiwanese authorities have arrested a mainlander who studied at an island university for espionage, the first such case since it began allowing students from the mainland in 2009.

Zhou Hongxu, who graduated from Taiwan’s National Chengchi University’s MBA programme last year, was jailed on Friday morning following his arrest the previous night for violations of the National Security Law, prosecutors said.

“The Taipei District Court agreed to our request to detain him incommunicado for fear that he could flee or collude with other suspects,” a spokesman for the ­office said. He declined to give ­further details.

Wang Wen-chieh, secretary general of the university, later told reporters that Zhou, from Liaoning province, was enrolled in the university’s MBA programme in 2012 and graduated in July last year.

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“Through his application, we understood that he was a member of the Communist Youth League of China,” Wang said, adding that Zhou behaved normally throughout his four years of studies.

Justice Minister Chiu Tai-shan said Zhou left Taiwan in August last year but came back this year as a businessman.

Quoting an unnamed prosecutor, Taiwanese media said Zhou had been instructed by Beijing’s Taiwan Affairs Office to collect sensitive information through his contacts in schools and government departments, and to develop a spy network on the island.

He also tried to recruit an official from Taiwan’s foreign ministry, offering him cash in exchange for classified information, the ­reports said.

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In Beijing, Taiwan Affairs Office spokesman Ma Xiaoguang hit out at Taipei’s claim.

“The allegation by Taiwan against our office is obviously fabricated and aimed at creating disputes,” he said.

Ma said the entire issue “smells fishy” given that pro-independence forces in Taiwan were promoting a bill targeting mainland spies on the island. He was referring to a plan the opposition Kuomintang says is an attempt by the government of President Tsai Ing-wen to revive a long-scrapped law against political dissidents.

Meanwhile, Katherine Chang, head of Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council, said the case would not affect the policy of allowing mainland student enrolments in universities on the island.