Missing Taiwan activist: China says he is suspect in probe over security

BEIJING • A Taiwanese man who had gone missing in China is being investigated on suspicion of harming national security, China's government said yesterday, in a case that has caused alarm on the self-ruled and democratic island Beijing claims as its own.

Mr Lee Ming-che, a community college worker known for supporting human rights in China, disappeared earlier this month after entering Zhuhai city via Macau.

"According to what is understood, Taiwan resident Lee Ming-che is suspected of engaging in activities endangering national security and is being investigated by the relevant authority. At present, his health is good," Mr Ma Xiaoguang, spokesman for China's Taiwan Affairs Office, told a regular news briefing.

It was the first official response from China on the matter after more than a week since Mr Lee disappeared on March 19.

Mr Lee's case is being handled in accordance with legal process, and the Taiwan Affairs Office has "seen" family requests about the issue, Mr Ma added.

Ms Lee Ching-yu with photos of her husband during a news conference in Taipei yesterday.
Ms Lee Ching-yu with photos of her husband during a news conference in Taipei yesterday. PHOTO: REUTERS

Ms Cheng Hsiu-chuan, spokesman for Mr Lee's family and head of the college where Mr Lee works, said: "We will request visitation to see Lee."

Taiwan's ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) said on the weekend China's failure to respond to Mr Lee's case was causing his family "anxiety and panic", and called on the authorities to protect the rights of the Taiwanese.

The DPP said the Chinese authorities had repeatedly said they would protect the rights of the Taiwan people in China in accordance with the law.

Mr Ma said Taiwanese coming to China for "normal" activities did not have anything to worry. "The mainland has rule of law," he said.

"On this point, Taiwan compatriots can rest at ease."

Relations between Beijing and Taiwan have worsened in the past year, largely because Beijing distrusts the DPP, which took power last year and traditionally supports independence for Taiwan.

Beijing cut off official communications with Taiwan after President Tsai Ing-wen took office last year.

Taiwan's agencies for dealing with China - its Straits Exchange Foundation and Mainland Affairs Council - have previously said they had been unable to raise a response from their Chinese counterparts over Mr Lee's case.

Rights group Amnesty International has said Mr Lee had been supporting organisations and activists in China for years but went to China this time for personal matters related to his mother-in-law's medical condition.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 30, 2017, with the headline 'Missing Taiwan activist: China says he is suspect in probe over security'. Print Edition | Subscribe