A Mainland Affairs Council official yesterday said that a Hong Kong reporter convicted by China of spying for Taiwan had contacts with a Taiwanese academic organization, but denied that he had been involved in espionage.
A Beijing court on Thursday sentenced Ching Cheong (程翔), 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 had been convicted for selling unspecified "state secrets and intelligence" to an unnamed Taiwanese foundation that was really a front for Taiwanese espionage activities against China.
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 of International and Cross-Strait Studies is a private, nonprofit group that in recent years has opened up a dialogue with a number of Chinese think tanks.
Yesterday, council Vice Chairman David Huang (蔡俊章) 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.
`A decent man'
"Ching is a decent man with professional integrity," Huang said.
"Regarding the reports that he made contact with two men in a Taiwanese foundation, that had nothing to do with espionage activities," he said.
"The circumstantial allegations against an innocent journalist are outrageous," he added.
Chao Chien-min (趙建民), deputy chief executive of the foundation, said that Ching had covered some 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."
The China Times 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 for Taiwan's security agencies and had conducted academic studies on behalf of the government.
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