Court orders detention of ex-lawmaker, retired Navy officer in spy case

01/19/2023 08:25 PM
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Former Legislator Lo Chih-ming (right) discusses the case with his lawyer before the court session in Kaohsiung on Thursday. CNA photo Jan. 19, 2023
Former Legislator Lo Chih-ming (right) discusses the case with his lawyer before the court session in Kaohsiung on Thursday. CNA photo Jan. 19, 2023

Kaohsiung, Jan. 19 (CNA) The Kaohsiung District Court on Thursday overturned its earlier decision, ruling that former legislator Lo Chih-ming (羅志明) and retired Navy major general Hsia Fu-hsiang (夏復翔) should be detained and held incommunicado on suspicion of helping China develop an espionage ring in Taiwan.

The district court made the decision on the grounds that Hsia and Lo, suspected of recruiting retired military personnel to travel on hosted trips to China, are a flight risk and likely to collude with others or tamper with evidence, it said in a statement.

The case stems from allegations that Lo recruited Hsia into a Chinese spy ring and the two subsequently used their connections to recruit retired military personnel to travel to China to be "entertained" by officials there, with the aim of helping Beijing build a spy network in Taiwan.

After receiving a tip-off, the Kaohsiung District Prosecutors Office, in collaboration with investigators, on Jan. 4 carried out searches and questioned more than 10 individuals in relation to the case.

During the questioning, some retired military officers admitted to having been entertained when they traveled to China, but said they were unaware of the purpose behind the hospitality.

That same day, prosecutors requested authorization to detain Lo and Hsia over suspected violations of the National Security Act, while three others were freed on bail or without bail. The five were listed as defendants, while 16 others were listed as witnesses.

On late Jan. 5, the district court set bail for Lo and Hsia at NT$200,000 (US$6,578) and NT$150,000, respectively.

Dissatisfied with the ruling, the next day prosecutors filed an appeal against the bail ruling with the Kaohsiung Branch of the Taiwan High Court, which sent the case back to the district court.

On Thursday, the district court reversed its previous decision, saying that although Lo and Hsia denied helping China develop an espionage ring, evidence shows the two are suspected of violating the National Security Act.

Meanwhile, both Lo an Hsia pose an extremely high flight risk given that they traveled abroad several times during the course of the investigation and have relatives living overseas, the court said in the statement.

In addition, according to the testimony of witnesses, the travel itineraries that Lo and Hsia arranged for the witnesses to go to China are highly likely to be related to Beijing's cross-Taiwan Strait unification propaganda.

Moreover, the discrepancies between the statements of the two and the witnesses have yet to be clarified, and there are still other individuals related to the case who have not yet been questioned. As such, there is still a risk of collusion between Lo and Hsia and the witnesses, according to the court statement.

The district court decided the two should be detained, held incommunicado and barred from reading newspapers and watching TV at the detention center, it said in the statement.

Lo, 65, served as a legislator for the pro-independence Taiwan Solidarity Union from 2002 to 2008 and later as chairman of Taiyen Biotech's Xiamen subsidiary. He currently heads a real-estate development company.

Hsia served as commander of the the destroyer ROCS Yue-Yang and deputy director of the Navy Command's Political Warfare Department.

(By Hung Hsueh-kuang, Matthew Mazzetta and Evelyn Kao)

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