Taiwan: Espionage Claims Denied
A Beijing court on Thursday sentenced Ching Cheong, a reporter for The Straits Times newspaper of Singapore, to five years in prison on charges of spying for Taiwan.
China's state-run Xinhua News Agency said that Ching was convicted for selling unspecified "state secrets and intelligence" to an unnamed Taiwanese foundation that was really a front for Taiwanese espionage activities against the mainland.
China and Taiwan split amid civil war in 1949 and conduct robust intelligence actives against each other.
Hong Kong media named the Taiwanese organization as the Foundation of International and Cross Strait Studies and said that Ching was alleged to have maintained contacts with two of its staffers.
The foundation is a private, nonprofit group that in recent years has opened up a dialogue with a number of mainland think tanks.
On Friday vice chairman David Huang of Taiwan's Cabinet-level Mainland Affairs Council denied that Ching had spied for Taiwan, while acknowledging that he had had contacts with a Taiwanese foundation that like Xinhua, he didn't name.
"Ching is a decent man with professional integrity," he said. "Regarding the reports that he made contact with two men in a Taiwanese foundation, that had nothing to do with espionage activities."
"The circumstantial allegations against an innocent journalist are outrageous," he added.
Chao Chien-min, deputy chief executive of the Foundation of International and Cross Strait Studies, said Ching had covered panel discussions sponsored by the group as a journalist during a reporting stint in Taiwan.
However, he too denied that his group was a front for espionage activities, or that Ching's contacts with it extended beyond reporting its events.
"We consign academic research jobs only to scholars, never to any journalists," Chao said. "We maintain exchanges with Chinese scholars and we don't engage in activities other than academic research."
Taiwan's China Times newspaper also named the Foundation of International and Cross Strait Studies as the group that Ching was in touch with. It said that several of the foundation's current and past executives had worked in Taiwan's security agencies and had conducted academic studies on behalf of the government.