Taiwan charges pro-China party spokesman and others with breaching national security

TAIPEI (Reuters) - Taiwan prosecutors indicted the spokesman for a pro-China political party and two other members for allegedly seeking to recruit Taiwan military officers on behalf of China and violating the National Security Act, a court statement said.

The Taipei District Prosecutors’ Office said in a statement on Wednesday that New Party spokesman Wang Ping-chung and two party members had acted on behalf of China to recruit a network in Taiwan that included government officials and students.

The indictment said the three “intentionally jeopardized national security and societal stability to develop organizations that serve China’s administrative, military, and Communist Party affairs’ institutions.”

China considers self-ruled Taiwan a wayward province and has not ruled out the use of force to ensure eventual unification.

Hostility towards Taiwan has risen since independence-leaning President Tsai Ing-wen’s election in 2016.

China suspects she wants to push for formal independence, which would cross a red line for Communist Party leaders in Beijing, though Tsai has said she wants to maintain the status quo and is committed to peace.

Beijing had earlier condemned authorities on the island for the investigation in another sign of diplomatic tensions between the two sides.

The statement redacted the middle characters of the defendants’ names, but the other two party members were identified by media as Lin Ming-cheng and Hou Han-ting.

In the indictment, New Party spokesman Wang and others are also suspected of using an underground foreign currency exchange company to illegally convert foreign currencies to the local Taiwan dollar, with the use of funds aimed at forming groups to serve China, the statement said.

The representative of the underground foreign exchange company as well as four others who engaged in related activities were also charged on suspicion of violating a Banking Law clause that relates to “illegally running a bank’s remittance service”, it added.

This week’s indictment involving New Party members has links to an earlier investigation into Chinese student Zhou Hongxu, who was jailed for 14 months in September for attempting to recruit a Taiwan official and extract confidential information.

Electronic records indicated that Zhou had contacted spokesman Wang and others in the course of his activities.

China’s Taiwan Affairs Office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Reporting by Jess Macy Yu in TAIPEI and Ben Blanchard in BEIJING; Additional reporting by Holly Chik in Hong Kong; Editing by James Pomfret