October 28, 2014 / 3:29 AM / 5 years ago

China, Taiwan trade barbs over student spying report

BEIJING/TAIPEI (Reuters) - China and Taiwan have traded barbs about spying after a report in a Chinese state-run newspaper said that Taiwanese intelligence operatives had tried to recruit Chinese students studying on the island to spy on China upon their return home.

An pro-democracy activist holds up Taiwan's national flag in front of police officers while Zhang Zhijun, director of China's Taiwan Affairs Office, visits the labour activity centre in New Taipei City, June 26, 2014. REUTERS/Pichi Chuang

The Global Times, a popular tabloid published by the ruling Communist Party’s official People’s Daily, said China had discovered more than 40 such cases in 15 provinces.

In a statement released late on Tuesday, China’s Taiwan Affairs Office expressed serious concern, saying that Chinese students studying on the island were one of the important fruits of the peaceful development of relations between the two sides.

“The instigations of Taiwan’s spying and intelligence organs seriously harms the safety and healthy growth of young students and is a serious interference in cooperative education exchanges across the strait,” it said in a statement.

“Taiwan should immediately stop such activities,” it added, without directly addressing the details of the newspaper’s accusations.

But Taiwan’s National Security Bureau, which deals with national security issues, denied the Global Times report.

“The National Security Bureau and intelligence agencies have always respected academic freedom and campus autonomy, never using false scholarship to interfere in cross-strait academic exchanges and development; and have not engaged in any intelligence work on campus,” it said in a statement.

It added that the part of the newspaper report referring to how Chinese students returning from studies in Taiwan have to report to Chinese authorities about their time in Taiwan showed how China’s Communist Party restricts its people’s speech and freedom of movement.

China and Taiwan have been ruled separately since defeated Nationalist forces fled to the island at the end of a civil war in 1949, and China has never renounced the use of force to bring it under Beijing’s control.

While relations have improved under the island’s China-friendly President Ma Ying-jeou, who has signed a series of landmark economic deals since taking office in 2008, deep political and military suspicions remain.

Reporting by Ben Blanchard in BEIJING and J.R. Wu and Miaojung Lin in TAIPEI

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