Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) officials confirmed that Taiwanese negotiators have made a proposal that — providing Taiwan’s Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) and China’s Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits (ARATS) reach agreement on the exchange of representative offices — SEF officials stationed in Beijing should be allowed to visit imprisoned Taiwanese intelligence agents on humanitarian grounds.
“It is difficult for the Chinese authorities to approve such a proposal at the moment, but ARATS officials have promised to continue dialogue on the issue and work out feasible steps to realize the goal,” council spokeswoman Wu Mei-hung (吳美紅) said.
According to sources, as a first step the Taiwanese government hopes to provide humanitarian and legal assistance, via its representative office in China, for Taiwanese intelligence agents who are serving sentences in Chinese prisons.
From this first step, it is hoped that foundations can be laid for future rounds of cross-strait negotiations on dealing with the issues of the release and exchange of arrested intelligence agents, sources said.
One notable case in recent years involved two Taiwanese intelligence officers from the Ministry of National Defense’s Military Intelligence Bureau.
Colonel Chu Kung-hsun (朱恭訓) and Colonel Hsu Chang-kuo (徐章國) were arrested by Chinese authorities on the Vietnamese side of its border with China on May 29, 2006.
Taipei has long insisted the arrest was illegal and complained that the Chinese government did not inform it about the arrest, and even denied the incident had ever taken place.
It was not until after the two were sentenced to life imprisonment in 2008 that China confirmed their arrest via a letter from ARATS to the SEF in early 2009.
During the two years in which Chu and Hsu were detained by Chinese authorities, their families in Taiwan did not receive any news on their whereabouts, whether they were dead or alive, and the two officers also did not receive any legal assistance during their trial.
After the sentencing, then-Military Intelligence Bureau director-general Ke Guang-ming (葛廣明) sought assistance via various channels, and with help from the SEF, the two men, serving time in a prison in Nanning City, in China’s Guangxi autonomous region, were allowed to receive family visits four times a year and to leave the prison to dine in restaurants with their families under the watch of Chinese security officers.
Additional reporting by CNA