Fri, Mar 15, 2019 - Page 2 News List

Supreme Court upholds 14-month sentence for spy

By Jason Pan  /  Staff reporter

Zhou Hongxu waves to reporters as he leaves the Taiwan High Court in Taipei on May 8 last year.

Photo: Liu Hsin-de, Taipei Times

The Supreme Court yesterday upheld a guilty conviction against Zhou Hongxu (周泓旭) and handed him a 14-month sentence for breaching the National Security Act (國家安全法), which has been criticized as too lenient.

It was the final verdict in the case.

In 2017, the Taipei District Court found Zhou, now 32, guilty of espionage, for recruiting people to develop a Chinese spy network in Taiwan. The High Court upheld the verdict in April last year, and both courts handed him the same 14-month sentence.

Zhou first came to Taiwan in 2009 to study at Tamkang University in New Taipei City’s Tamsui District (淡水) and later returned to study for a graduate degree in management at Chengchi University from 2012 to 2016.

After graduating, Zhou returned to Taiwan in February 2017 to work at Taiwan Yong Ming International, a company registered in Taipei, but funded by a Hong Kong firm.

The case began when Zhou met with Chinese official Li Bin (李彬) in Shanghai, investigators said.

Li is the liaison officer in Shanghai for the Taiwan Democratic Self-Government League, which is run by the Chinese Communist Party.

Li instructed Zhou to carry out certain tasks, specifically focusing on befriending Taiwanese politicians, as well as people working in the military, police, intelligence and foreign affairs agencies, investigators said.

Investigators found that Zhou had joined numerous social networks and attended functions to make friends in Taiwan.

He became acquainted with a Ministry of Foreign Affairs junior official in 2016, and promised them a payment of at least US$10,000 per quarter in exchange for classified information, they found.

Investigators said that Zhou had also been in contact with members of the New Party, including Wang Ping-chung (王炳忠), Hou Han-ting (侯漢廷), Lin Ming-cheng (林明正) and Chen Ssu-chun (陳斯俊), members of its youth wing.

Zhou and the New Party members were involved in an operation codenamed “Star Fire T Project,” which offered financial rewards depending on the value and level of the contacts they gained, investigators said.

Zhou also funded Wang’s Web site, Fire News, which had its registered address as the New Party’s Taipei headquarters, they said.

Meanwhile, Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Wang Ting-yu (王定宇) said that he echoed many people’s view that Zhou’s sentence was too lenient, because it was a serious case of China working to destabilize Taiwan and subvert national security.

“Our courts chose to prosecute based on the National Security Act, which has the most lenient punishment for espionage,” Wang Ting-yu said.

There is a gray area in the laws governing Taiwanese and Chinese, he said, adding that he has been pushing for amendments to be more specific regarding spying by “persons from another country, or an enemy state.”

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