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Wed, Jan 17, 2001 - Page 3 News List

Prosecutors free five Chinese suspected of spying

AP, TAIPEI

A prosecutor dropped spy charges yesterday against five Chinese men detained last year for entering Taiwanese waters aboard a ship to film military facilities, Taiwanese state radio reported.

The coast guard seized the Chinese ship off Tainan in southern Taiwan in May last year and arrested the men.

Security officials had said films seized from them showed shots of military facilities and sentries deployed on the outlying Taiwanese islands of Penghu and Wuchiu.

They said the Chinese claimed to be fishermen but could not explain why they carried night-vision cameras and Taiwanese maps but no fishing equipment.

Prosecutor Huang Chao-kuei, of the Taipei District Court, decided not to prosecute the five, noting that they had entered Taiwanese waters by accident and confessed to the mistake, the radio report said.

Analysts have seen the move as another Taiwanese gesture to improve frosty relations with China.

On New Year's Day, Taiwan introduced the "three small links," easing a 51-year-long ban on direct shipping links with the mainland, allowing Chinese to travel to the two Taiwanese island groups of Kinmen and Matsu.

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