CHINA TOPIX

Updated 2:12 PM EST, Wed, Jan 29, 2020

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China, Taiwan Engage In War Of Words Over Student Spying

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.

(Photo : REUTERS/PICHI CHUANG) 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.

A war of words broke out Tuesday between China and Taiwan over Chinese allegations that Taiwan security operatives were recruiting Chinese students to spy for them.

China's Taiwan Affairs Office late Tuesday issued a statement saying attempts by Taiwan intelligence operatives to turn Chinese students on the island into spies was "a serious interference in cooperative exchanges across the state."

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Taiwan's National Security Bureau flatly denied the charges. Officials issued a statement saying they have always respected academic freedom and campus autonomy, adding they "have not engaged in any intelligence work on campus."

Mainland China Taiwan Affairs officials went on to say that "Taiwan should immediately stop such activities," adding that Chinese students going to school in Taiwan was one of the important results of peaceful development of relations between the sides.

Tuesday's official exchange stemmed from a report Monday in the Chinese Communist Party's Global Times that Taiwan was recruiting Chinese students to spy on the People's Republic of China. Titled "Big spies on campus," the report said mainland students at 20 Taiwan universities had been "enlisted" as Taiwan spies between 2009 and 2013.

The report in the official People's Daily tabloid said China had uncovered more than 40 cases involving mainland students recruited as Taiwan intelligence operatives in 15 provinces. The Global Post reported stories about Chinese students being recruited among the 11,000 mainlanders annually attending Taiwan universities.

In turn, Taiwanese security officials said the fact mainland students returning from Taiwan were required to report their activities to Chinese officials showed how much the Communist Party restricted freedom of movement and speech.

Nationalist forces escaped to Taiwan following their 1949 defeat in the civil war. China has never renounced the use of force in reuniting what it considers a breakaway province, although relations have improved since the 2008 election of Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou who has a China-friendly philosophy.

The two sides have signed a number of groundbreaking economic agreements although deep political and military divisions continue.

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