I-Shou University, Kaohsiung, Taiwan (by Cb67783 [CC BY-SA 3.0] via Wikimedia Commons)

On September 15 China Central Television (CCTV) broadcast two reports alleging that Taiwanese intelligence agents blackmailed mainland Chinese students on the island into spying on behalf of Taipei.

Today CCTV aired the first part of a “Report on Countering The Work of Taiwanese Spies” (反台湾间谍工作集中报导), claiming that Taiwanese intelligence agents targeted exchange students from mainland China, using “sexual enticement”, bribery and blackmail to compel them to “infiltrate the mainland” and spy on behalf of Taiwan’s authorities. Another programme, “Topics in Focus” (焦点访谈), later broadcast a report titled “Dangerous Love in the Shadow of Espionage” (危情谍影).

The reports revealed that this year China’s Ministry of State Security launched a counter-intelligence operation named “Thunderbolt 2018”, which allegedly led to the uncovering of over 100 espionage cases and the identification of several spies. Pictures, surnames and birthdays of 3 alleged Taiwanese spies were disclosed.

CCTV stated that Chinese security agents have “timely broken up the spy intelligence network set up by Taiwan’s intelligence agencies to target China”. It accused Taiwan of “seriously harming cross-strait relations and peaceful development” and of “seriously endangering national security and interests.”

One of the stories uncovered by CCTV involved a man identified as Xiaozhe. In 2011 at the age of 18 he went to Taiwan as an exchange student and studied at I-Shou University. Xiaozhe allegedly fell in love with a fellow student named Hsu Chia-ying (許佳瀅). After he returned to China, Hsu asked him to reveal her sensitive information. 3 years later he discovered that Hsu was 16 years older than him and that she worked for the Taiwanese military.

Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) released a statement condemning China’s accusations.

“Taiwan is a democratic and free society under the rule of law,” the statement says. “The government welcomes mainland students coming to Taiwan as a way to foster pluralism on campuses, and to encourage young people from both sides of the Strait to know and understand each other. Mainland students in Taiwan enjoy the freedoms and rights we guarantee. The MAC demands that the mainland side do not use mainland students for political manipulations, falsely accusing us of carrying out espionage activities, and interfering with our free and democratic society under the rule of law.”

The Taiwanese government further denounced mainland China’s state-run media propaganda and stressed that attempts to undermine Taiwan’s democracy would only backfire. “If the mainland side is determined to continue with its manipulations, it will only increase cross-strait suspicion and misunderstanding and damage the development of cross-strait ties.”

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