Mon, 05 Jun 2023

Beijing [China], May 5 (ANI): The possibility of China arresting Taiwanese nationals on political charges was flagged in late April 2023, with news of the detention of Li Yanhe, the editor-in-chief of Gusa Publishing, in Shanghai, The Diplomat wrote.

Li is known by his pen name Fucha. He was born in China, but later obtained Taiwanese citizenship and has a Taiwanese spouse. Li has been living in Taiwan since 2009, after previously working in the Chinese publishing industry. Li was in Shanghai to visit friends and family, though according to co-workers, he hoped to give up his Chinese citizenship while there.

Chinese who have obtained Taiwanese citizenship are required to relinquish their Chinese citizenship within three months, The Diplomat reported.

Gusa Publishing was known for publishing books critical of the Chinese government, with titles on subjects such as corruption in the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) or Chinese influence on global media. Gusa Publishing also put out translations of English books, ranging from titles with "The People's Republic of Amnesia" to "China in the 21st Century."News of Li's detention broke after the Chinese dissident poet Bei Ling, who has been living in exile since 2000, posted on Facebook on April 20 that Li had likely been taken in by Chinese authorities while visiting Shanghai. Bei stated that Li had been missing since visiting Shanghai in March, but that news of his disappearance had not broken out sooner because his family hoped to keep quiet, The Diplomat reported.

Bei urged for going public with the disappearance, stating that in his experience, releases were secured earlier through greater attention on the issue. However, Bei later deleted his Facebook post about the disappearance, saying that he would comply with the wishes of Li's family.

A few days later, on April 25, the Beijing Daily reported on the arrest of Taiwanese independence advocate Yang Chih-yuan after an investigation by the National Security Bureau of Wenzhou, Zhejiang.

Following this investigation, the Supreme People's Procuratorate approved the arrest, with Yang held under Residential Surveillance at a Designated Location (RSDL), a form of detention in which prisoners are held in facilities that may not be traditional jails, such as converted hotels.

The Chinese government is not required to inform family members of people detained under RSDL.

Yang originally disappeared in January 2022 after travelling to China. Nevertheless, it was only confirmed that he had been imprisoned by the Chinese government in August 2022, after footage of Yang in detention appeared on state-run television. This footage was released in a similar timeframe as the historic trip to Taiwan by then US Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and China's live-fire drills in response to the visit, The Diplomat reported.

Yang, 32, was the deputy chair of the pro-independence Taiwanese National Party (TNP), though the TNP is obscure among even pro-independence groups. As such, he was arrested on charges of secession. Yang had a history of independence-leaning activism, including participating in the 2008 Wild Strawberry Movement, a student protest movement against the visit to Taiwan by the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait's chair Chen Yunlin, as well as the 2013 "Fury" protests against then-President Ma Ying-jeou of the China-friendly KMT.

Yang was previously a member of former President Chen Shui-bian's pro-independence Taiwan Action Party Alliance.

For a pro-independence activist, Yang was also unusually close to the Chinese Unification Promotion Party (CUPP), which is known for its links to organized crime. Yang was reportedly solicited by the CUPP to run as one of its candidates in the past, The Diplomat reported.

It is not clear why Yang was in China, but acquaintances suggest that he may have been in China to participate in a Go tournament.

On April 26, one day after news of the approval of Yang's arrest by the Supreme People's Procuratorate, the Chinese government confirmed that it was detaining Li Yanhe.

The timing of both cases was seen as potentially linked in Taiwan. Notably, news of the detentions came mere weeks after Chinese live-fire exercises around Taiwan in reaction to the meeting in California between Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen and current US Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy, The Diplomat reported.

The dynamic in which disappearances of Taiwanese nationals are not known until much later on has been seen several times. It is often the case that families are told to keep quiet about the arrest of their relatives, with the suggestion that they will be released faster if there is no open campaign for their advocacy.

Li's arrest in China has drawn comparison to the kidnapping of the Causeway Bay booksellers, given his status as a publisher. Five workers at Causeway Bay Books in Hong Kong, which published books critical of the Chinese government, disappeared in late 2015.

The arrests are also similar to the kidnapping of Taiwanese NGO worker Lee Ming-che, who was held by the Chinese government for over five years after travelling to China in March 2017.

Lee Ming-che is now back in Taiwan following his release. He remains an active figure in Taiwanese civil society, calling for the release of political prisoners facing situations similar to what he previously experienced.

It is unclear how many Taiwanese are being held by the Chinese government on political charges. Cases that are publicly known include the detention of businessman Morrison Lee Meng-chu, who fell afoul of Chinese state security after participating in the 2019 Hong Kong protests and crossing into China. Morrison Lee's arrest took place at a time in which the Chinese government claimed in response to the 2019 and 2020 Hong Kong protests that it had arrested hundreds of Taiwanese spies who were fomenting tensions.

Other Taiwanese known to be detained in China include pan-Blue academic Shih Cheng-ping and pro-unification advocate Tsai Jin-shu. Shih was accused of espionage charges in 2020 over articles he wrote on the Chinese military, while it is less clear why Tsai was arrested.

The MAC stated in 2019 that 149 Taiwanese were missing in China, with the council unable to confirm the whereabouts of 67 people. It is not known how many of those may have been detained on political charges, nor how this statistic may have changed since then. (ANI)

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