BEIJING/TAIPEI (Reuters) - China has expressed its strong opposition and concern after the Taiwan government began a probe into a tiny but passionately pro-China opposition party for national security reasons, the latest flashpoint between Beijing and Taipei.
Taiwanese investigators searched the homes of four officials from the New Party, which currently has no members of parliament, on Tuesday on suspicion they had violated the National Security Act.
A New Party delegation, including at least one of those whose homes was raided, party spokesman Wang Ping-chung, visited China last week as part of a scheduled trip to meet China's policy-making Taiwan Affairs Office.
The New Party has denounced the raids as politically motivated, although Taiwanese prosecutors and the government have not given details of what they are suspected of.
Party chairman Yok Mu-ming, cited in Taiwanese media, wondered how such a small party with no legislators could be considered to have any secrets, and said that they had nothing to fear from the investigation.
In a short statement released late on Tuesday, China's Taiwan Affairs Office 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 broke off from the Nationalists, who once ruled all of China, in 1993. Defeated Nationalist forces fled to Taiwan in 1949 after losing a civil war with the Communists.
Relations between China and Taiwan have soured since Tsai Ing-wen of the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party won presidential elections last year. China suspects she wants to push for Taiwan's formal independence.
Tsai says she wants to maintain peace with China but will defend Taiwan's security.
The Chinese military has stepped up air force patrols around Taiwan in recent weeks. China has never renounced the use of force to bring what it considers a wayward province under Chinese control.
(Reporting by Ben Blanchard and Jess Macy Yu; Editing by Paul Tait)