The reputed leader of Taiwan's Bamboo Gang claimed in court yesterday that the former director of military intelligence ordered him to kill a Chinese-American journalist whose writings were critical of the government.

Chen Chi-li, 41, told a pretrial hearing at the Taipei District Court that Vice Adm. Wong Shi-ling, 57, told him at a meeting in August that writer Henry Liu "must be killed because he was a double agent" spying for both Taiwan and mainland China, The Associated Press reported.

But Wong, who was arrested in January and suspended as the director of the Defense Ministry's military intelligence bureau, denied the charges, according to the judge.

Liu, 52, was slain in Daly City, Calif., near San Francisco, Oct. 15, and Chen and two other reputed members of his gang -- Wu Tun, 35, and Tung Kuei-sen, 33 -- have been charged with the murder.

Chen told the packed courtroom that he changed his mind about murdering Liu when he discovered the writer's parents had been killed by communists in China. Chen said he wanted "only to teach him Liu a lesson" and instructed Wu "not to kill nor disable him, suggesting that he should be beaten.