TAIPEI (Reuters) - China does not understand Taiwan’s laws and its democracy, a senior Taiwanese justice ministry official said Monday, in the latest spat between the self-ruled island and Beijing, after island authorities detained a Chinese man in a suspected spy case.
Deputy justice minister Chen Ming-tang said comments from a senior Chinese official that Taiwan was trying to use the case to stir up trouble with China was a misunderstanding.
“This is their misunderstanding of Taiwan’s judicial system and Taiwan’s democratic system. Basically, we will handle this according to law,” Chen told reporters on the sidelines of a parliamentary meeting. “We will not make up charges.”
In an unusual espionage case involving a Chinese exchange student, Taiwanese authorities detained a man, identified as having recently been a university exchange student in Taiwan named Zhou Hongxu, on suspicion of breaching national security laws.
China’s Taiwan Affairs Office (TAO) spokesman Ma Xiaoguang was cited in Chinese state media as saying on Friday that media reports alleging the suspect was working on behalf of TAO was “deliberate fabrication.”
“I am not familiar with the case,” Ma was cited as saying on Friday.
Taiwanese authorities have said the investigation is ongoing and that information about the case was classified.
Taiwan notified China’s public security bureau on Friday after Zhou was detained, Chen said, which was in accordance with a mutual legal assistance pact between Taiwan and China.
China’s Ministry of Public Security did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
China has never renounced the use of force to take back Taiwan, an island it regards as a wayward province. Chinese spy cases in Taiwan usually involve retired Taiwanese military officers.
The Zhou case comes as China has been pressuring Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen to concede that the island is a part of China. Beijing distrusts Tsai, who is leader of a ruling party that traditionally advocates independence for Taiwan.
Senior Chinese officials this month explicitly stated young people and business ties are being targeted by China for political purposes.
According to Taiwan’s investment commission under its economics ministry, which is in charge of reviewing foreign investments on the island, Zhou became a board director of HK Yongming Industry Co Ltd in late December.
HK Yongming Industry is a company that includes Chinese investors as shareholders and has been registered in Taipei City since July 2014 with a capital of T$10.2 million ($329,840.90), according to company records with the economics ministry.
The company’s revenue size is not very big and it has been losing money, but the commission has not detected irregularities involving the company, a spokeswoman with the commission told Reuters.
($1 = 30.9240 Taiwan dollars)
Reporting by J.R. Wu; Additional reporting by Ben Blanchard in BEIJING; Editing by Michael Perry