What you need to know
Radio Free Asia has reported a Taiwanese NGO worker is missing in China.
A Taiwanese NGO worker and community college manager has not been heard from for more than a day after arriving in China, Radio Free Asia reports.
Friends and family of 42-year-old Lee Ming-che (李明哲) have been unable to contact Lee since he boarded a flight from Taipei to Macau, on March 19. Lee was en-route to a hospital in Guangdong, southern China, for a medical consultation for his sick mother-in-law.
Lee, a former secretary for Taiwan’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) executive in Taoyuan, is an NGO worker who frequently works with human rights lawyers in China. He currently works at the Taipei Wenshan District Community College.
Taiwan’s Straits Exchange Foundation Deputy Secretary-General Lee Li-jen (李麗珍) told The News Lens that officials are using all available channels to try and locate Lee, including Taiwanese businesspeople working in China, the Mainland Affairs Council and local Chinese authorities. No further information was immediately available.
Attempts to contact the community college where Lee works were not successful this morning.
Liu Ermu (劉爾目), a Chengdu-based online activist and friend of Lee’s who was supposed to pick Lee up from the airport, told Radio Free Asia’s Cantonese Service that he waited for Lee for four hours. The last time Liu had contact with Lee was at 11:40 a.m. on March 19, and further calls to Lee’s mobile phone went to his voicemail.
Liu then released news of Lee’s disappearance, RFA reports. Liu also told RFA that he fears Lee may have been detained by Chinese authorities because of his work on human rights issues in China.
The Taipei Economic and Cultural Office Bureau of Macau Affairs told RFA that it was working with the Macau government and police to locate Lee after Lee’s wife contacted the bureau. Officials said records showed Lee entered China at 11:51 a.m. on March 19. However, it did not find any records of his detention or checking into a hotel.
Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council spokesperson Chiu Chui-cheng (邱垂正) also told RFA’s Mandarin Service that Taiwanese authorities had not received a report from the Chinese authorities regarding Lee’s arrest. “If it is a criminal detention, the Chinese authorities will usually report it to Taiwan. However, if he was arrested because of national security issues, then the Chinese authorities may not report it,” Chiu told RFA.
Officials at the Gongbei Customs in Zhuhai, China, refused to answer questions from RFA on whether Lee had been blacklisted by the Chinese authorities. “We would not be able to tell you, even if you think there is such a possibility and we also cannot tell you if he has been arrested. His family should contact the police themselves,” the unnamed official told RFA.
Cheng Hsiu-chuan (鄭秀娟), the principal at the community college where Lee works, told Radio Free Asia that she was worried Lee would face harsher charges due to China’s Overseas NGOs Domestic Activities Management Law, which hands over supervision and regulation of foreign NGOs in China to the police.
The law, in effect since Jan. 1, allows Chinese police to enter foreign NGO offices and seize documents and other information, examine bank accounts and limit funding. It would also allow police to revoke NGOs’ registration, cancel their activities, and impose detention on NGO workers.
Taiwanese media are linking Lee’s disappearance to a recent spate of reports of Chinese spy operations in Taiwan. A Chinese student in Taiwan was detained on March 10 on suspicion of breaching national security laws, and a bodyguard who worked for former Vice President Annette Lu (呂秀蓮) was arrested in Taoyuan for spying for China.
Editor: Edward White