A Chinese professor who was named the World Bank's chief economist this week may face arrest on charges of defecting from Taiwan's army 30 years ago if he visits his hometown, an official said yesterday.
As an officer in Taiwan's army, Justin Lin Yifu (林毅夫), 56, swam from Kinmen to China's southern Fujian Province in 1979.
The Chinese-language China Times quoted him as saying from Beijing that he wanted to return to Taiwan soon to pay respect to his late parents.
Mainland Affairs Council Vice Chairman Liu Te-shun (劉德勳) said Taipei would not bar Lin from returning home.
But Yu Sy-tue (虞思祖), spokesman for the Ministry of National Defense, said he would not rule out Lin's arrest, adding that a military court would have to decide whether the statute of limitations on Lin's defection had already expired.
"There's no question that he is a deserter," Yu said. "We will cautiously study his case with the agencies concerned."
The military first listed Lin as a missing soldier but formally issued an arrest order in 2000. Lin could face life imprisonment if convicted of desertion.
With his expertise in development economics, Lin has been considered the leading Chinese contender for the Nobel prize in economics. On Tuesday, Lin was named the first economist from a developing country to hold the chief economist post at the World Bank.