China has executed an army general and a colonel after they were found guilty of selling state secrets to Taiwan for at least $1.6 million, military sources said, describing the case as the biggest spying scandal in Communist China's 50-year history.
The sources said retired Maj. Gen. Liu Liankun, 58, was executed by lethal injection in Beijing last month and that Senior Col. Shao Zhengzhong, 56, was convicted in the same court martial and also executed.
Liu, a former department director with the army's General Logistics Department, had been passing secrets to Taiwan for about five years, the sources said. He was accused of selling secrets to Taiwan intelligence agents about army war games and missile tests in waters near Taiwan in 1996 and about the deployment of troops and weapons.
"Taiwan knows how much equipment we have," one source said. "No wonder Taiwan wasn't too worried during the 1996 military exercises."
Liu was the most senior officer ever convicted of spying for Taiwan, which Beijing considers a renegade province that must one day be reunited with the mainland. The sources disagreed on exactly when he retired but agreed it was after the 1996 war games.
The sources said the scandal shocked and angered Chinese President Jiang Zemin, who also is the general secretary of the Communist Party and head of the party's Central Military Commission. Jiang has been dealing with renewed China-Taiwan tensions triggered by a recent declaration of political equality by Taiwanese President Lee Teng-hui.
On Saturday, President Clinton met with Jiang in Auckland, New Zealand, during a regional economic conference and warned him of grave consequences should China use force against Taiwan, a White House official said. Jiang conceded no ground, reaffirming China's refusal to rule out the use of force against Taiwan and upbraiding the United States over arms sales to the island.
Another source said investigators found $500,000 and 900,000 yuan (about $110,000) in Liu's home and that Taiwanese authorities had deposited $1 million in Liu's overseas bank account.
A Chinese army spokesman said he had no knowledge of the affair, and the Foreign Ministry said the subject was not within its jurisdiction. Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council, which formulates policy toward China, denied any knowledge of the case.
Beijing and Taipei have been spying on each other since the Communists won a civil war over Nationalist Party forces in 1949, forcing the Nationalists into exile on Taiwan, which they have controlled ever since.
In a separate case last month, a Chinese appeals court confirmed a life sentence for government official Xi Shiguo, 45, for spying for Taiwan in the southern island province of Hainan. Xi, who earned 1,000 yuan a month ($121) was convicted of receiving the equivalent of more than $9,000 from Taiwan's intelligence service.
The court rejected the appeal of co-defendant Hsiung Tien-chun, a Taiwanese citizen, who also was jailed for life.
Beijing and Taipei have been locked in a war of words since Lee's declaration in July that China-Taiwan ties should be on a "special state-to-state" basis, which China saw as a dangerous lurch toward a formal assertion of independence.