Taiwan ex-colonel gets life term for spying for China

TAIPEI (AFP) - A former Taiwanese air force officer was sentenced to life in prison for spying for China, a court said on Friday, adding to a string of spying scandals in recent years.

Lieutenant Colonel Yuan Hsiao-feng was convicted on 12 accounts of leaking confidential military information to China between 2003 and 2007, the supreme court said.

Yuan handed the secrets to China via retired colleague Chen Wen-jen, who was recruited by Beijing after he went there to do business. Chen received a 20-year jail term for his involvement in the case, according to the court.

The court also imposed a fine of NT$7.8 million (S$329,706) on Yuan - the amount of payment he collected for passing the secrets. The ruling is final.

The duo have been detained since 2012 when they failed to recruit two junior colleagues, who turned them in to the authorities instead.

Taiwan and China have spied on each other ever since they split in 1949 at the end of a civil war. Beijing still regards the self-ruled island as part of its territory awaiting reunification, by force if necessary.

Taiwan has been rocked by a spate of espionage scandals in recent years, reflecting the fact that intelligence gathering has continued despite warming ties with China under current Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou.

In September 2013, a retired vice admiral was jailed for 14 months for collecting confidential military information for China, just months after an ex-lieutenant general was indicted for leaking secrets to Beijing.

In 2011, an army general and chief of an intelligence unit was sentenced to life for spying for China in one of Taiwan's worst espionage scandals.

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