Kaohsiung District Court.

TAIPEI, TAIWAN — A retired Taiwan navy officer and a former member of the country’s parliament were charged on Thursday over an alleged bid to build a spy network for China.

Hsia Fu-hsiang, who was deputy head of the navy’s political warfare department, and former legislator Lo Chih-ming had “provided Chinese intelligence personnel with opportunities to contact and even recruit our retired generals in their actions to develop a network for Chinese organisations”, the Kaohsiung district prosecutor’s office said.

The two were involved since 2013 with Chinese organisations that work on “promoting (Taiwan’s) unification with China” by recruiting the retired generals, it added.

China claims self-ruled, democratic Taiwan as part of its territory to be seized one day, by force if necessary.

The two sides have been spying on each other since splitting after a civil war between Chinese nationalists and communists in 1949.

Hsia and Lo had reached out to at least 48 high-ranking retired military officers and arranged 13 paid trips for them, prosecutors said, warning other retired officers against acting on Beijing’s behalf.

“We urge retired military officers to exercise caution regarding unreasonable benefits when they go to events in China to avoid falling into the traps” of Beijing, prosecutors said.

The two men were detained in January and remain in custody, facing up to five years in prison if found guilty.

The case surfaced shortly after prosecutors launched an investigation into a retired air force colonel who was suspected of recruiting at least six active-duty officers in Taiwan’s air force and navy over eight years on behalf of Beijing.

A number of former high-ranking Taiwan military officials have in recent years been accused of developing spying networks for China.

In January, a retired air force major general received a four-year suspended sentence for accepting meals and trips offered by a Hong Kong businessman allegedly acting on behalf of Beijing, after the court said he showed remorse and had no previous criminal record.

— AFP

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