Pro-Beijing politicians arrested in Taiwan’s student spy probe
Pro-reunification party members are suspected of arranging a meeting between Taiwanese government officials and a Chinese student, who was trying to set up a spy ring on the island
Taiwanese prosecutors are seeking to find local accomplices and acquaintances of a Chinese student spy now facing an appeal hearing in the Taiwan High Court.
Prominent news personality Wang Ping-chung and three other leaders of the New Party youth wing were detained on Tuesday for a probe into suspected leaks of classified information in connection with the espionage case mounted against mainland student Zhou Hongxu, who has been held in custody since March.
New Party is a pro-reunification entity derived from the Kuomintang (KMT). Its platform includes negotiations with the Chinese Communist Party to delineate Taiwan’s autonomy and status in a unified China. New Party chairman Yok Mu-ming has met with Chinese President Xi Jinping and his predecessor Hu Jintao multiple times.
The 30-year-old Wang, the New Party spokesman and head of its youth member committee, is known for his strident pro-China views. He has made frequent trips to the mainland and taken potshots at Taiwanese leaders including Tsai Ing-wen when appearing as a commentator on Chinese state media.
In coordinated events on Tuesday, investors and police served summonses and conducted searches at Wang’s home in Taipei, as well as those of his New Party colleagues, all just returned to Taiwan on Saturday following a visit to Beijing, Shanghai and Nanjing as Yok’s assistants.
They met Yu Zhengsheng, chairman of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference and deputy of the Communist Party’s Taiwan affairs working group, in Beijing last week.
Officials dispatched to search Wang’s home said they had to call a locksmith to gain entry after Wang stalled them for about an hour and refused to let them in while live-streaming the drama online, Taipei Times reported.
Wang is being investigated on suspicion of violating the National Security Act.
A KMT spokesperson expressed concern about political prosecution when asked about the high-profile arrest. On Wednesday, KMT chairman and former deputy Taiwanese Vice President Wu Den-yih also joined appeals for an explanation, calling the arrest a violation of human rights.
The ongoing investigation is headed by the director of the Taipei District Prosecutors Office, who is also in charge of the Zhou case and was responsible for laying charges of espionage against the island’s first student spy in Zhou’s first trial in September.
Wang had been seen attending the same events as Zhou. The latter was seen to be leveraging Wang’s connections while keen to create a network to pry on Taiwan’s national secrets. Zhou had allegedly been trying to infiltrate the foreign ministry, before a young diplomat blew the whistle on him.
The alleged student spy was also summoned by prosecutors on Tuesday evening, as officials said they might arrange for Zhou and Wang to testify and be cross-examined.
The arrest and Zhou’s trial have been reported in Beijing mouthpieces such as the Global Times. Chinese papers have claimed there is a “huge commotion” among Taiwanese and that the Tsai administration’s prosecution is “shocking”.