Taiwan launches probe into ex-China affairs official

August 19, 2014 - 1:28:51 pm

TAIPEI: One of Taiwan's top negotiators on China policy has been put under investigation after stepping down, over suspicions related to "national security", authorities said Tuesday.

The row at the Mainland Affairs Council could upset President Ma Ying-jeou's push to embrace China, according to observers who said it could harm fragile cross-Strait relations.

The council initially announced that Chang Hsien-yao, the deputy minister for mainland affairs, had stepped down over the weekend for family reasons.

However Chang cried foul, telling reporters that he had been ordered to quit amid unspecified allegations against him which he branded as "concocted".

The row took another twist Tuesday when the council said that the Investigation Bureau, which is tasked with countering Chinese espionage against Taiwan as well as criminal activity, had launched a probe into Chang.

"Since part of the suspicion regarding Chang's work has been related to national security, we decided to transfer the case to the Investigation Bureau for further investigation," council spokeswoman Wu Mei-hung told reporters.

She would not be drawn on details of the concerns, saying only that the council's move was prompted by a recent tip-off.

Local media suggested that Chang might have leaked classified information during previous talks with China.

The Taipei-based United Daily News quoted an unnamed government official as saying the investigation could be connected with "leaking secrets" including the bottom line in negotiations.

The scandal came after China's top official in charge of Taiwan affairs, Zhang Zhijun --the most senior Chinese official ever to visit the island -- wrapped up a landmark four-day visit in June.

Ties between Taiwan and China have improved markedly since 2008 when Ma, of the China-friendly Kuomintang party, came to power on a platform of beefing up trade and tourism links.

Observers said Chang's removal could complicate Ma's pro-Beijing push, which has already been hampered by massive student-led protests in Taipei earlier this year.

"The incident might have a negative impact on cross-Strait ties, when mutual trust between the two sides is fragile," said Chang Ya-chung, a professor at National Taiwan University. (AFP)