Prosecutors and legal experts decried the High Court’s acquittal of two former air force officers — colonel Ko Chi-hsien (葛季賢) and lieutenant colonel Lou Wen-ching (樓文卿) — in a Chinese spying case that resulted in the conviction of Chinese army captain and intelligence officer Zhen Xiaojiang (鎮小江), and Taiwanese retired army major general Hsu Nai-chuan (許乃權).
The High Court on Tuesday cited insufficient evidence and inconsistencies in testimony in its decision to acquit Ko and Lou.
During the trial, prosecutors had presented evidence of the pair and other defendants illicitly obtaining classified military materials for passing on to Zhen, who from 2007 to 2014 recruited 10 Taiwanese military officers to develop a spy network.
Zhen in 2016 received a four-year prison term, while Hsu, the highest-ranked Taiwanese military officer in the case, got a two-year and 10-month sentence, for breaching the National Security Act (國家安全法).
Evidence showed that Zhen provided up to US$10,000 to obtain top classified information on Taiwan’s Leshan (樂山) Radar Station, deployment plans for military drills and pilot training for French-made Mirage 2000 jet fighters.
Taiwan High Prosecutors’ Office Chief Prosecutor Hsing Tai-chao (邢泰釗) yesterday said that the Zhen case had seriously damaged national security, but Zhen only received a four-year sentence.
“At the time, even air force commanding generals told then-prosecutor-general Yen Ta-ho (顏大和) that the sentence was too lenient,” Hsing said.
“Prosecutors have spent so much time and effort, using up considerable resources, to get convictions on Chinese spying cases, but the punishments are usually too lenient and have little deterrent effect,” he said.
“They have dealt a severe blow to the morale of judicial officials who have worked diligently to bring about an indictment,” he added.
The acquittal of the two air force officers could lead to more Chinese spying.
“It will result in grave threats to our nation, endangering the safety of all citizens,” Hsing said.
Attorney Huang Di-ying (黃帝穎) said the acquittals have caused dismay among the judiciary and prosecutors, and would embolden Chinese spies and people enticed by money to steal secrets for Beijing.
“Also, it undermines efforts to safeguard our democracy, such as amendments to strengthen laws and impose more severe punishments against China’s infiltration and espionage work in Taiwan,” he said.
He urged prosecutors to file an appeal “to show our determination to protect our national security.”
“Judges should better understand the concept of safeguarding our country against foreign infiltration and defending our democratic society from enemy forces. People found to be working as Chinese spies must not be let off lightly,” he said.
“Most Chinese spying cases and infiltration into the military and government ... required long periods of surveillance and tracking, with considerable resources and endeavor needed to gather evidence. At times, we had help from the intelligence agencies of the US and other democratic allies to facilitate prosecution. However, the end results were often very disappointing, as shown by the acquittal in this case,” Huang added.
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