Taiwan prosecutors to probe allegation official leaked state secrets

Taiwanese prosecutors decided Friday to take up the case of a former high-ranking government official accused of leaking state secrets to China.

Taipei District Prosecutors Office spokesman Huang Mou-hsin told a press conference that the office will pursue the case involving Chang Hsien-yao, former deputy minister of the Mainland Affairs Council that handles matters relating to communist-ruled China.

But it remains uncertain whether formal charges will be brought against Chang, who has strongly denied the allegation.

The case was referred to district prosecutors by the Justice Ministry's Investigation Bureau, which had earlier approached the Taiwan High Prosecutors Office to have Chang prosecuted on a treason-related charge.

But that bid was turned down on grounds that treason involves an attempt to betray or overthrow the government on behalf of a "foreign power," but mainland China is not considered as such under Taiwan's Constitution.

China and Taiwan have been governed separately since 1949 when Nationalist (KMT) forces led by Chiang Kai-shek were defeated by the Communists under Mao Zedong and fled to the island. The government in Taipei still claims mainland China as its territory and formally calls Taiwan the Republic of China.

On Saturday, the Executive Yuan, Taiwan's Cabinet, announced that Chang, who was also vice chairman and secretary general of the quasi-official Straits Exchange Foundation, had resigned from his positions for "family reasons."

However, in a text message to media outlets late Sunday night,

Chang insisted he was forced to step down.

The council subsequently admitted he was sacked, but defended the action by saying it needed to "clear some doubts on the questions being raised about his work," without elaborating.

After its spokeswoman Wu Mei-hung clarified Tuesday that Chang stands accused of breaching national security, without giving details, Chang went on national TV to deny having spied for Beijing or having leaked any classified information to it.

Mainland Affairs Council Minister Wang Yu-chi told reporters Wednesday he was "pretty certain" Chang leaked state secrets to China. He added it was necessary to fire him to facilitate a "fair and objective" probe into the matter.