Detained Taiwanese rights activist in good health, says China

Government official says Li Ming-che has been in touch with his family, but gave no details of where he is held or what charges he may face

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 26 April, 2017, 12:16pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 26 April, 2017, 11:09pm

The Chinese government said on Wednesday that a Taiwan rights activist detained on suspicion of endangering national security was in good health and had reassured his family in a letter.

The detention has put a strain on ties between Taipei and Beijing, which have cooled since Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen took power last year because she refuses to concede that the self-ruled island is part of China.

The activist, Li Ming-che, is a community college worker known for supporting human rights. He went missing in mainland China, which views neighbouring Taiwan as a breakaway Chinese province, on March 19. The mainland authorities later confirmed his detention.

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Li’s case is still under investigation and processing, Ma Xiaoguang, a spokesman for China’s Taiwan Affairs Office, told a regular news briefing.

“At present, Li Ming-che’s health is good and there are no concerns about medical care. He has clearly explained the relevant situation to his family in a letter,” Ma said.

Li’s family and the Taiwan government have been frustrated at not being told where Li is held and Ma did not answer when asked his location or to give further details of the charges Li could face.

Li’s wife was barred from travelling to mainland China this month.

She said he had received a letter through unofficial channels, but could not verify it was from her husband.

A potential diplomatic confrontation between mainland China and Taiwan was averted last week, after a Chinese activist who had reportedly intended to seek asylum on the island flew back home.

Taiwan immigration officials had apprehended and questioned Zhang Xiangzhong after he left his tour group and the authorities were deciding whether to deport him or risk fraying relations with Beijing by granting him sanctuary as a political refugee.

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Ma confirmed that Zhang had arrived back in China and that authorities were investigating the case, but gave no details.

China has never renounced the use of force to bring Taiwan back under its control, while democratic Taiwan has shown no interest in being run by Communist Party rulers in Beijing.

Defeated Nationalist forces fled to Taiwan in 1949 after losing a civil war with the communists, but since a thaw began in the 1980s, cross-Strait investment has flourished.