Taiwan officer gets 12 life terms for spying for China

TAIPEI (AFP) - A former Taiwanese air force officer has been given 12 life sentences for spying for China, a court said on Wednesday, adding to a lengthy list of espionage cases that have rocked the island.

Lieutenant Colonel Yuan Hsiao-feng was convicted of passing unspecified military secrets to China between 2001 and 2007, said a High Court official.

He handed the secrets to China via retired colleague Chen Wen-jen. Both men were sentenced on Tuesday, with Chen receiving a 20-year jail term, the official said.

Yuan was found guilty on 12 counts of leaking secrets, each of which carries a mandatory life term, the official said.

The duo, who can appeal the ruling, have been detained since last year when they failed to recruit two junior colleagues, who turned them in to the authorities instead.

The Taipei-based China Times said Yuan was paid Tw$7.8 million (S$327,000) by China for the secrets he collected. The court declined to comment on the figure.

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

Taiwan has been rocked by a string of spying scandals in recent years, reflecting the fact that intelligence gathering has continued despite warming ties with China.

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

A Taiwanese admiral has been questioned over his alleged involvement in an espionage case that led to the arrest of three senior military officers in September for spying for China, officials and the media said on Monday.

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