TAIPEI – A Chinese man who graduated from a Taiwan university has been detained on suspicion of spying for China, the first known case of a Chinese student being investigated for espionage since 2011, local media reported Saturday.
Reports quoted prosecutors as saying that the former student, Zhou Hongxu, is being held incommunicado on suspicion of recruiting people to develop a spy ring in Taiwan.
Prosecutors alleged that Zhou, 29, tried to recruit an official of the Foreign Ministry by offering him a free trip to Japan in exchange for delivering classified materials.
Reports said that Zhou, then a student at Zhejiang University in Hangzhou, first came to Taiwan in 2009 as an exchange student at Tamkang University, New Taipei. He later enrolled in a masters degree program at National Chengchi University in the capital Taipei and graduated in July last year.
After Zhou returned to China in August, he continued to contact a young official of the Foreign Ministry with whom he made an acquaintance while a student. Zhou returned to Taiwan last month and asked the official whether he would be interested in delivering classified documents in exchange for an all-expenses-paid trip to Japan and a U.S. dollar reward, reports said.
The official then replayed the offer to the authorities, leading to a raid of Zhou’s apartment in Taipei on Thursday. Prosecutors said they believed that Zhou was instructed by China’s Taiwan Affairs Office to enroll at NCCU where he could make friends and develop a spy ring.
However, Ma Xiaoguang, spokesman of China’s Mainland Affairs Office, dismissed the allegation as “pure fabrication intended to stir up trouble.”
Questioning the motive behind the case, Ma said it has come at a time when Taiwanese independence forces have been hyping up a “serious infiltration by Chinese spies in Taiwan.”
“This will only undermine the goodwill between compatriots and educational exchange programs, resulting in the deterioration of cross-strait relations,” he said.
Taiwan and China have been governed separately since they split amid a civil war in 1949. Since then, Beijing has regarded Taiwan as a renegade province awaiting reunification, by force if necessary.