Activists advocating Hong Kong independence were reportedly shadowed by three retired local police officers during a trip to Taiwan in January.
Taiwan’s Liberty Times reported on Monday that the officers had backgrounds in “security and intelligence” and were spotted at events attended by Hong Kong independence advocates.
Student activists including Student Localism convenor Tony Chung visited Taiwan between January 11 and 15. During the trip, they attended various forums and also met with Liberty Times senior political reporter Su Yong-yao.
After the activists returned home, China-owned newspaper Ta Kung Pao published a front-page story claiming that the activists met with a “secret envoy” of Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen.
The Taiwanese presidential office responded by accusing the publication of “fake news” and mistaking the identity of Su. Su also called Ta Kung Pao‘s story “ridiculous,” saying he only met with the activists to interview them.
On Monday, Liberty Times published an expose about the events in January, citing “evidence collected by the police and National Immigration Agency under the direction of the National Security Bureau.”
It alleged that six reporters from the Wen Wei Po and Ta Kung Pao travelled to Taiwan on tourist visas, and hired five people from private investigation firms.
“The police viewed the video footage monitoring the streets, and discovered that members of the Hong Kong pro-Beijing press tailed the student activists and Taiwanese reporter,” the article read. “They were active in the vicinity of Taipei, and attended press conferences and forums on independence issues.”
Investigators also found three individuals who were identified as retired Hong Kong police officers, who regularly contacted a mainland Chinese student studying in Taiwan, the paper said.
All of the Hongkongers involved have since left the island, according to the report, and the mainland Chinese student is being investigated by the Ministry of Justice Investigation Bureau.
Last month, Taiwan’s body for dealing with cross-straits affairs said that it would strengthen immigration checks in the wake of January’s incident.
Deputy Minister of the Mainland Affairs Council Chiu Chui-cheng said that the measures would target individuals working at “specific media outlets in Hong Kong and Macau” at a certain level of seniority.
The National Security Bureau was following up on the case and had already gathered evidence, Chiu added.
Ta Kung Pao had previously stood by its reporting on the activists, adding that the Taiwanese reporter implicated was “no ordinary reporter” but a clandestine representative of Taiwan’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party.
“Liberty Times claimed Ta Kung Pao had made a mistake in an attempt to divert attention, but it cannot hide the fact that Taiwan independence and Hong Kong independence [activists] were colluding with each other,” the newspaper said in January.
HKFP has reached out to Ta Kung Pao for further comment.
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