March 13, 2017 12:28 pm JST

Taiwan official says China doesn't understand how Taiwan works amid suspected spy case

TAIPEI (Reuters) -- China does not understand Taiwan's laws and its democracy, a senior Taiwanese justice ministry official said Monday, in the latest spat between the self-ruled island and Beijing, after island authorities detained a Chinese man in a suspected spy case.

Deputy justice minister Chen Ming-tang said comments from a senior Chinese official that Taiwan was trying to use the case to stir up trouble with China was a misunderstanding.

"This is their misunderstanding of Taiwan's judicial system and Taiwan's democratic system. Basically, we will handle this according to law," Chen told reporters on the sidelines of a parliamentary meeting. "We will not make up charges."

In an unusual espionage case involving a Chinese exchange student, Taiwanese authorities detained a man, identified as having recently been a university exchange student in Taiwan named Zhou Hongxu, on suspicion of breaching national security laws.

China has never renounced the use of force to take back Taiwan, an island it regards as a wayward province. Chinese spy cases in Taiwan usually involve retired Taiwanese military officers.

China's Taiwan Affairs Office (TAO) spokesman Ma Xiaoguang was cited in Chinese state media as saying on Friday that media reports alleging the suspect was working on behalf of TAO was "deliberate fabrication."

"I am not familiar with the case," Ma was cited as saying on Friday.

Taiwanese authorities have said the investigation is ongoing and that information about the case was classified.

Taiwan notified China's public security bureau, its security apparatus, on Friday after Zhou was detained, Chen said, which was in accordance with a mutual legal assistance pact between Taiwan and China.

Chen said Chinese security officials had not provided a response yet.

China's Ministry of Public Security did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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