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Taiwan

Beijing accuses Taiwan of blackmailing students into spying for the self-ruled island

More than 100 cases cracked by Thunderbolt 2018 Crackdown, state broadcaster CCTV says

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 15 September, 2018, 10:44pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 16 September, 2018, 2:53pm

Beijing has accused Taiwan of blackmailing visiting university students into gathering intelligence about the Chinese mainland and claims to have cracked more than 100 espionage cases involving the self-ruled island, the state broadcaster said on Saturday, as tensions between the two sides continue to rise.

The Thunderbolt 2018 Crackdown run by the Ministry of State Security has led to the detention of several Taiwanese spies and their agents, CCTV reported in the first of a two-part series on the subject.

“It has cut off the spy intelligence network set up by Taiwan and dealt a serious blow to Taiwanese intelligence agencies,” it said.

The state broadcaster also released photographs of people it claimed were Taiwanese spies who had made friends with or “seduced” mainland students at universities on the island.

The “spy network” has been trying to infiltrate the mainland using different means including bribery and “erotic enticement”, the report said.

But trying to coax university students into spying was “particularly vile in nature”, the report said.

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An unidentified officer from the national security agency said Taiwanese intelligence agents tried to trap students so they could later use the information against them when they were in positions of authority in the government or other agencies.

Several mainland universities have advised their students to watch the CCTV shows, so they can avoid being targeted.

A mechanical engineering student featured in the programme, and identified only as Zhe, said he had been approached by a woman when he was an exchange student at I-Shou University in Taiwan in 2011.

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The woman kept in contact with Zhe and developed a romantic interest in him after he returned to the mainland. He said the she seemed interested in his academic life and wanted to know about his work, especially when he became involved in more important projects.

Zhe became suspicious and said he wanted to break up, but the woman blackmailed him.

Under pressure Zhe provided nearly 100 pieces of intelligence about national defence and was paid 45,000 yuan (US$6,500) until the woman was exposed by China’s intelligence authority in 2014, the CCTV show said.

Another student established a relationship with a young man who accompanied her when he attended a seminar in Taiwan in 2014, the report said. The student then helped the man collect information on aeronautics from published academic magazines and journals, thinking they were in the public domain.

He had been paid 15,800 yuan when the security authorities caught up with him, the report said.

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Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Bureau responded to the allegations made in the CCTV show with a statement saying Beijing had fabricated the stories and calling for it not to use mainland students in Taiwan as political pawns.

The accusations made in the television show would only make Taiwanese more wary of Beijing, it said.

“We call for the mainland to stop framing us for political manoeuvring and trying to put mainland students off studying in Taiwan,” the statement said.

“If the mainland side insists on doing this it will only cause misunderstanding and suspicion across the [Taiwan] strait.”