Authorities in Taiwan have widened an investigation into the activities of Zhou Hongxu, jailed in September for trying to recruit a diplomat from the democratic island to spy for mainland China, to include four members of the pro-China New Party, according to local media reports.
Prosecutors arrived to search the home of party spokesman Wang Ping-chung and three other party officials this week, following up on suspicions that they might have supplied Zhou with information in violation of Taiwan's national security law, according to the Taiwan News website.
After Wang began a live Facebook feed and refused to admit police and judicial investigators, the door was opened by a locksmith, the Taiwan News reported. Police later found Chinese yuan in cash and documents written in simplified Chinese characters used in mainland China stored there.
Wang said at a news conference held after his release from questioning that the move was part of a "Green Terror" witch-hunt by the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), which has previously campaigned on a pro-independence platform under a green flag.
However, he admitted to knowing Zhou, adding that the former student had attended New Party events in the past.
"In 2014, when I successfully became a representative of the party, he came to an event to offer his support," Wang said. "Later he participated in our organization events so of course we know him."
Wang has denied receiving money from mainland Chinese political or military organizations, Taiwan's Central News Agency reported.
The phrase 'green terror' echoed that used by an opinion article in the Global Times newspaper, a nationalistic tabloid which has close ties to Chinese Communist Party mouthpiece the People's Daily, on Wednesday.
"Taiwanese authorities aim to frighten pro-mainland groups through their doomed to fail ... 'green terror' independence movement," the paper said, citing claims that some 5,000 mainland Chinese spies are currently in hiding in Taiwan, a former Japanese colony which has never been ruled by the Chinese Communist Party.
Officials have declined to confirm or deny reports that the party members are suspected of spying for China.
However, Taiwan's judiciary is independent of the executive, unlike that of mainland China.
KMT lawmaker Tseng Ming-chung said the DPP, which ousted the KMT from the presidency and the Legislative Yuan in 2016, fears anyone who supports "peaceful reunification" with mainland China.
"This has the flavor of killing the chickens to frighten the monkeys," Tseng told reporters. "I think that if cross-straits tensions continue, it will cause instability in the relationship [with Beijing]."
"That wouldn't be good for Taiwan's development as a whole," he said, in an apparent reference to increasing air-force patrols of the island by the Chinese military in recent weeks.
'One China' principle
China's Taiwan Affairs Office on Tuesday praised the New Party for its stance in opposing Taiwan independence and upholding the "one China" principle, which states that Taiwan is part of China.
"Recently, the Taiwan authorities have shielded and connived with Taiwan independent splittists, and taken various moves to wantonly crack down on and persecute forces and people who uphold peaceful reunification," it said.
"We strongly condemn this and are paying close attention to developments," the office said.
The New Party was founded in the 1990s by breakaway members of the former Kuomintang ruling party, which fled to Taiwan in 1949 after losing the Chinese civil war to Mao Zedong's communists.
It currently has no seats in the island's parliament, the Legislative Yuan, but holds two seats on the municipal government of the capital, Taipei.
Taiwan was a Japanese colony during the 50 years prior to the end of World War II, but was handed back to the KMT government of what was then the Republic of China as part of Tokyo's post-war reparation deal.
The KMT government relocated entirely to Taiwan in 1949 after losing the civil war, but Beijing still regards the island as part of Chinese territory and has threatened to invade if Taiwan seeks formal independence.
President Tsai Ing-wen swept to victory in 2016 on the back of broad political support for de facto self-rule for Taiwan, where the majority of voters identify as Taiwanese rather than Chinese.
Taiwan began a transition to democracy following the death of KMT President Chiang Kai-shek's son, Chiang Ching-kuo, in January 1988, starting with direct elections to the legislature in the early 1990s and culminating in the first direct election of President Lee Teng-hui in 1996.
Reported by Chung Kwang-cheng for RFA's Cantonese Service, and by Hwang Chun-mei for the Mandarin Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.