A former Chinese student detained on Friday on suspicion of espionage likes Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石) and collects artifacts relating to him, according to one of the man’s friends, who is a spokesman for the pro-unification New Party.
The Taipei District Court detained Zhou Hongxu (周泓旭) for allegedly trying to gather classified information from schools and government offices in violation of the National Security Act (國家安全法).
Investigators said that Zhou allegedly tried to contact a Ministry of Foreign Affairs official whom he met while studying in Taiwan and tried to persuade him to pass over classified information by promising him a free trip.
Zhou has denied the accusations, but prosecutors asked that he be detained, a request the court granted over fears that Zhou would flee and collude with others.
New Party spokesman Wang Ping-chung (王炳忠) said that Zhou likes the Republic of China and admires Chiang.
Zhou, who was enrolled in a master of business administration program at Taipei-based National Chengchi University from September 2012 to July last year, once noted that the university was founded by Chiang and said he felt a special attachment to it, Wang said.
Wang said he became acquainted with Zhou at a seminar at National Taiwan University, adding that later, as both were opposed to the Sunflower movement protests of 2014, they sometimes exchanged views over lunch.
The Sunflower movement protested the rapid passage of the cross-strait service trade agreement by the then-Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) government.
Wang expressed surprised that Zhou was accused of espionage, but said that as judicial authorities are investigating the case, he could not comment further.
National Chengchi University confirmed that during his admission process, Zhou had told them he participated in Communist Youth League of China activities.
However, the school said it does not treat students differently because of their religious beliefs or political stances and hopes that the public will not see Chinese students in a poorer light because of an isolated case, university chief secretary Wang Wen-chieh (王文杰) said.
According to Zhou’s Facebook profile, he is from China’s Liaoning Province.
Zhou entered the department of banking and finance at New Taipei City’s Tamkang University as an exchange student in 2009.
People who studied with Zhou at that time expressed disbelief that he could be a spy, saying that he was a “bookworm” and “a good-student type” who would stand up and salute his teachers in every class.
Deputy Minister of Education Tsai Ching-hwa (蔡清華) said that the ministry has consistently said that Chinese students must abide by Taiwan’s laws.
“That is basic respect” and Taiwanese students studying in China must also obey that nation’s laws, Tsai said.
With regards to whether Chinese students should divulge their political backgrounds during the admission process, he said that the matter would need to be discussed with related agencies.
A National Taiwan University student said there is nothing unusual about Zhou being a member of the Communist Youth League of China, because 99 percent of Chinese students are members, and usually join when they are in junior or senior-high school.
In response to media queries, Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) urged people not to overreact to China’s spying activities, saying that if China has sent students to collect information on the nation, the CIA must have done so too.
“These things happen. We should not reverse our policies or tar [Chinese students] with the same brush over one or two students [assigned by China to perform spy activities],” Ko said.
“There are existing policies on enrolling Chinese students. I do not think that it [the incident] is a major deal. There must be some CIA agents under the guise of students on our campuses, too,” he added.
Additional reporting by Sean Lin
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