Today (15/09) Taipei District Court sentenced Zhou Hongxu (周泓旭), a mainland Chinese national, to 1 year and 2 months in jail on charges of espionage. Zhou is a former exchange student and a graduate from a master of business administration programme at National Cheng-chih University (NCCU).
Zhou was detained by Taiwanese police on March 10 on suspicion of organizing a spy ring in breach of Taiwan‘s National Security Act (國家安全法). Article 2-1 of the Act states that people “are prohibited from carrying on detection, collection, consignation or delivery of any confidential documents, pictures, information or articles or developing an organization for official use of a foreign country or Mainland China.”
According to reports, 29-year-old Zhou Hongxu is a native of Benxi City, in mainland China’s Liaoning Province. He came to Taiwan for the first time in 2009 as an exchange student to attend a business and finance programme at Tamkang University, in New Taipei City.
In September 2012 he enrolled in a master’s programme at NCCU and obtained his degree in July last year. After graduation he returned to mainland China. In February 2017 he moved back to Taiwan on an investment and business visa to work as a board member of “Taiwan Yung-ming International”, a Taipei-based company with ties to Hong Kong and mainland China.
During his stay in Taiwan, Zhou cultivated contacts with Taiwanese and especially with government officials. He had befriended over 1,400 people on Facebook and frequently travelled across the island to take part in various events. One of his contacts was a government official from Taiwan’s Foreign Ministry.
He attempted to procure from the official classified information by promising a financial reward and a paid trip to Japan, where the official was supposed to hand over the information to a contact in the country. The young government official, however, ultimately decided to report him to the police.
The authorities accused Zhou Hongxu of trying to organize a spy ring and concluded that there was sufficient evidence to bring charges against him according to the National Security Act. The defendant may appeal his sentence.
An anonymous government source told the Taipei Times in March that government offices “lack credible information security and are vulnerable to Chinese espionage”, adding that about 5,000 individuals are estimated to be engaged in espionage activities in Taiwan on behalf of the Chinese government.
Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council (MAC), a government agency that handles unofficial communications with mainland China, rejected comparisons between Zhou Hongxu’s detention and Li Ming-cheh’s case. Li Ming-cheh, a Taiwanese human rights activist, was arrested in mainland China on suspicion of “subverting State power” and confessed to the alleged crime in a televised trial on September 11.
Ch’iu Ch’ui-cheng, MAC deputy committee chairman and spokesperson, said at a press conference on September 14 that the two cases are not comparable. “Zhou Hongxu was detained on suspicion of enticing Taiwan government officials to leak state secrets. Li Ming-cheh was arrested because he talked about China’s political situation and current affairs via the internet and other media. The two cases cannot be compared.”
Ch’iu stressed that Zhou Hongxu was provided a lawyer to defend himself and family members were allowed to visit him during his detention.
The Chinese government slammed the accusations against Zhou Hongxu as “pure fabrication intended to stir up trouble.”
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