China and Taiwan swap jailed spies in historic first

Ma Ying-jeou and Xi JinpingChina and Taiwan reportedly swapped each other’s imprisoned spies, just days before a historic meeting between their heads of government. It was the first time in the two nations’ history that they have swapped jailed spies with each other. The exchange appears to have taken place in secret in late October, less than two weeks ahead of a historic November 7 meeting between Chinese President Xi Jinping and Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou. The meeting, which took place in Singapore, was hailed for its historic significance, as it was the first of its kind since 1949, when the two countries emerged following a bitter civil war between communist and nationalist forces.

News of the spy exchange emerged in the Taiwanese press on Monday, when it was reported that Taipei had released Li Zhihao. Li, a mysterious Chinese intelligence officer known in spy circles as “the man in black”, had been arrested in 1999 after being lured into Taiwan, and was serving a life sentence. He is believed to be 70 years old. In return, Beijing appears to have freed Chu Kung-hsun and Hsu Chang-kuo, two colonels in Taiwan’s Military Information Bureau, who were arrested by mainland China’s counterintelligence nearly a decade ago. At the time of their arrest, the Taiwanese government protested that the two officers had been kidnapped from the Vietnamese side of the Chinese-Vietnamese border. But Beijing had dismissed Taipei’s protestations and had convicted the two men of espionage.

It is worth pointing out that the two Taiwanese officials had initially been sentenced to death, but their sentences were later commuted to 20 years behind bars. It is believed that they were the last Taiwanese military officials held in China for espionage, and that they were the highest-ranked Taiwanese spies imprisoned in China. Their release, therefore, marks an unprecedented development in Chinese-Taiwanese relations, though it should be remembered that dozens of Taiwanese civilians are held in Chinese jails on espionage charges.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 01 December 2015 | Permalink

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