Tue, Dec 23, 2003 - Page 3 News List

Military casts doubt on spy-ring report

MYSTERY AND INTRIGUE While the Ministry of National Defense dismissed reports 21 Taiwanese businesspeople had been arrested in China for spying, former New Party lawmaker Elmer Fung said he had evidence to back up the claim


The military yesterday dismissed Hong Kong media reports that 21 Taiwanese businesspeople were arrested in China for suspected espionage, saying the reports were not based on facts.

The military intelligence bureau under the Ministry of National Defense (MND) denied the reports in a news release, claiming it had checked through various channels the authenticity of the reports.

But three former or incumbent lawmakers stepped forward to confirm the reports, saying at least five cases have been established, though the total number might not be as high as 21.

The three, including ex-lawmaker Elmer Fung (馮滬祥) of the New Party, produced evidence at a press conference they called at the legislature. The evidence included a photocopy of the arrest notice for one of the five Taiwanese businessmen involved.

Fung claimed he has confirmed with military authorities the arrest of the five people in China. He did not give the names of the five, saying he wanted to protect them and their families.

"We know of only five cases so far," Fung said. "They are all businessmen with no intelligence or military backgrounds.

"Evidence shows that they were indeed collecting information on China's ballistic missiles," he said. "These people are not professional intelligence agents. The military intelligence bureau should stop using Taiwanese businessmen in China for espionage since they will only be sacrificed."

Meanwhile, retired Major-General Chen Hu-men (陳虎門), an ex-intelligence official, told the Taipei Times that as far as he knew, there were only two to three Taiwanese arrested recently for suspected spying activities.

Chen, said to be the source of information for the Hong Kong reports, denied that he was the source. He was famous for the involvement in the murder of a Chinese writer in the US in 1984, who was killed for publishing a controversial biography of then president Chiang Ching-kuo (蔣經國). Chen is now in Thailand.

"I know only two to three Taiwanese businessmen have become `out of contact' in China recently. My former intelligence experience tells me that `out of contact' means `being arrested.' I do not have any direct information that proves they have been arrested. It is just my personal judgment," Chen said.

Fung and Chen blamed President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) for making public late last month the total number and deployment sites of short-range ballistic missiles that China has targeted at Taiwan. They said China's recent arrest of Taiwanese spies must have a lot to with Chen's talk on missiles.

General Chen Pan-chih (陳邦治), director of the political warfare bureau under MND, however, disagreed with Fung.

"As the commander of the armed forces, Chen has the right to choose what to say or what not to say. He will make a decision according to the situation," Chen said.

Chen's campaign spokesman Wu Nai-jen (吳乃仁) said the allegation the arrests were due to Chen's revelation of the exact number of missiles targeting Taiwan was foolish.

Wu said the alleged arrests were still under investigation. He believed even if there were such arrests, they would have been China's retaliation for Taiwan's recent crackdown on several Chinese agents.

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