Prosecutors in Taiwan on Thursday indicted three former legislative aides for trying to access President Tsai Ing-wen's medical records for China's state security police.
Chen Wei-jen, Lee Yi-hsien, and Lin Yung-ta, all former aides at the democratic island's Legislative Yuan, have been charged with spying and developing a spy network for China.
All three have been released on bail and barred from leaving the country.
All three stand accused of trying to collect and pass on sensitive government information to China's ministry of state security between 2012 and 2016.
Prosecutors said on Thursday that both Chen and Lin had traveled to Macau in 2012, where they met with a Chinese intelligence officer, identified as Huang Guanlong.
Huang instructed them to set up a spy network in Taiwan and gather information for the Chinese security agency in exchange for financial gain, their indictments said.
While Chen and Lin had previously worked for Kuomintang lawmaker Chen Shu-hui, Lee was a journalist recruited by Huang in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong.
He went on to work as assistant to then KMT lawmaker Chang Li-shan.
Huang wanted them to access information on activities by the banned Falun Gong spiritual movement in Taiwan, President Tsai's medical records, and the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP)'s forthcoming election campaign.
Apparently, the three agents failed to get hold of the required information, according to prosecutors.
Influence, infiltration fears
The indictments followed further warnings from Tsai that Chinese influence and infiltration could lead to dire consequences, citing the recent national security crackdown imposed by Beijing on Hong Kong.
"We are saddened and alarmed to see [Hong Kong, a] beacon of civil liberties extinguished in violation of the promises Beijing had made to the people of Hong Kong as well as the international community," Tsai said in a speech to the Washington-based think-tank, the Hudson Institute.
"The measures that have taken place against Hong Kong further exemplify how Taiwan is on the front lines of freedom and democracy," Tsai said, adding that her administration has made it a priority to protect the island's own freedom and democracy.
"We recognize the bravery of the people of Hong Kong ... We also see the international community as having an obligation to speak out and act against the demise of Hong Kong's freedoms," she said.
Tsai said Taiwan's 23 million people have the right to determine their own future, in spite of threats from Beijing that it could invade if the island refuses its plan of "peaceful unification."
The island, which has never been ruled by the Chinese Communist Party nor formed part of the People's Republic of China, has been governed by the 1911 Republic of China since it occupied the island at the end of World War II, ending 50 years of Japanese rule.
Reported by Chung Kuang-cheng for RFA's Cantonese Service, and by Hsia Hsiao-hwa for the Mandarin Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.
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