Wife of detained Taiwanese activist barred from boarding flight to mainland China

Li Ching-yu was supposed to travel to Beijing but was told at airport that her mainland travel document had been withdrawn

PUBLISHED : Monday, 10 April, 2017, 5:03pm
UPDATED : Monday, 10 April, 2017, 11:05pm

The wife of Taiwanese human rights activist Li Ming-che has been denied entry to the mainland to try and find her husband, who has been detained over activities related to “national security”.

Li Ching-yu was supposed to take flight BR2762 on Taiwanese carrier EVA Air to Beijing at 1pm on Monday in the company of two officials from the Straits Exchange Foundation, a semi-official agency responsible for dealing with the mainland in the absence of formal diplomatic ties.

But EVA ground staff told her at the airport in Taiwan that her travel document issued by mainland authorities had been invalidated, meaning she would be unable to board any flights going there.

“The Chinese mainland claims it is a country abiding by the rule of law, but it has employed illegal means to take away my husband and detain him at unspecified location,” she said after learning that she could not board her flight.

‘Let me visit my husband’, wife of detained Taiwanese rights activist urges Beijing

“Action like this is not only illegal but also unjust,” she said, adding that she would not give up her attempt to “rescue my husband”.

Li Ming-che, 42, a rights activist and a former employee of Taiwan’s independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party, went missing on March 19 immediately after he entered Zhuhai from Macau.

A friend who was supposed to meet Li at the customs checkpoint on the mainland side waited for four hours without seeing him, according to Li’s wife.

The wife said that unlike other activists, Li was “low key” and had merely exchanged ideas on democracy with friends made on Wechat over the past several years. She said her husband travelled to the mainland once a year.

“They sent a cross-strait broker to my house on April 7 and showed me a copy of a Xerox document supposed to be written by my husband,” she said, adding that while she recognised it as a confession in Li’s handwriting, she did not believe her husband would have written something like it if he was not coerced.

Mainland China has detained Taiwanese rights activist, says wife

She said the agent, identified as Li Chun-min, told her she could help rescue her husband but that she must cancel her plan to visit Beijing.

She said she made the broker sign a document promising that there would be no image or TV footage showing Li’s confession, and that arrangements would be made so she could see him as soon as possible.

“I can’t accept this, because what they have done to my husband was not only threatening, but also blackmail,” she said. “A person must be able to have freedom but also dignity.”

On Sunday, An Fengshan, a spokesman for the State Council’s Taiwan Affairs Office, confirmed that an agency had been charged with sending a letter to the relatives of Li. He did not identify the agency and gave no details about Li’s condition.

Mainland authorities no help in search for Taiwanese rights advocate

Li Ching-yu said that in order to show goodwill, she had already postponed her plan to travel to the mainland until Monday, as she understood the authorities there would be busy dealing with the summit between President Xi Jinping and his US counterpart Donald Trump. But despite the postponement, she had still been refused entry.

Asked what her next step would be, Li said the refusal would not stop her from rescuing her husband, and that she and her friends would find other ways to achieve her goal.

The Straits Exchange Foundation on Monday issued a statement expressing its regret over Beijing’s handling of the case, saying the mainland side must quickly clarify what Li Ming-che had done wrong.

Taiwan’s government-run Mainland Affairs Council also issued a statement to protest against what it called an unlawful restriction of Li’s personal freedom and its prevention of his wife’s visit.