China Holds US Citizen Accused of Spying for Taiwan

August 19, 2005 Updated: August 19, 2005

BEIJING – China has detained a U.S. citizen on suspicion of spying for ideological foe Taiwan, keeping him under house arrest without charge for nearly three months, the U.S. embassy in Beijing said on Friday.

Chinese-born Xie Chunren was arrested in the southwestern province of Sichuan on May 31 after he travelled there from the United States, the embassy spokeswoman said.

“He is currently under residential surveillance under suspicion of espionage for Taiwan,” she said.

China claims the self-ruled island of Taiwan as its own and both sides have been spying on each other since their split at the end of the Chinese civil war in 1949.

The charges have come to light just weeks before Chinese President Hu Jintao makes his first trip to Washington as leader, adding new frictions to ties already strained over issues from China&#039s military buildup to textile trade.

The United States recognises the mainland as China&#039s sole legitimate government — the “one-China” policy — but in a deliberately ambiguous piece of foreign policy is also obliged by law to help Taiwan defend itself.

Xie, who lives in New Jersey, is the latest in a string of Chinese-born American citizens to fall foul of Chinese authorities.

David Ji, the co-founder and chairman of U.S. electronics distributor Apex Digital Inc., was arrested in late 2004 for cheque fraud in a dispute with Changhong Electric Appliance Co. Ltd. . He was released from custody earlier this week.

Last August, Beijing accused David Dong, a Chinese-American, of spying for Taiwan. Dong has been held since 2003 when he travelled to the southern city of Guangzhou on a business trip.

Chinese media have said he was recruited by Taiwan military intelligence and received a monthly salary to steal state secrets.

It was not immediately clear if Xie&#039s detention was related to Dong&#039s case.

The U.S. embassy spokeswoman said officials from the consulate in the Sichuan capital Chengdu had visited Xie three times since his detention and had frequent contact with his son in the United States.