Mainland authorities no help in search for Taiwanese rights advocate

Lee Ming-che has not been heard from since entering Zhuhai from Macau on March 19

PUBLISHED : Monday, 27 March, 2017, 9:02am
UPDATED : Monday, 27 March, 2017, 9:02am

Taiwan has received no response from mainland authorities on the whereabouts of a Taiwanese human rights advocate, whom his relatives and friends think might have been detained by security agents for supporting human rights on the mainland.

Lee Ming-che, 42, a former Democratic Progressive Party staffer who works at Taipei’s ­Wenshan Community College, went missing following his entry to Zhuhai through Macau on March 19.

“We have sought information regarding [Lee’s] whereabouts through established channels in a bid to ascertain his safety,” said Chiu Chui-cheng, the vice-chairman and spokesman for Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council.

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He said the organisation had received no response from mainland authorities, including the Taiwan Affairs Office under the State Council and the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait (Arats), which represent the central government in dealing with Taiwan.

MAC officials said both Macau’s government and police confirmed that Lee entered Zhuhai from the customs check point at about 11.51am on March 19.

However, Lee has not been heard from since then, and there is no record of him checking into any hotel in Zhuhai or being arrested there.

Taiwan’s Straits Exchange Foundation said it had twice faxed letters to its counterpart in Beijing, Arats, to help locate the activist, but had received no response to its queries.

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“We have also contacted local police and Taiwanese business associations on the mainland for help,” the foundation said.

Arats president Chen Deming told Taiwanese reporters who were attending the Boao Forum for Asia in Hainan province that he was unaware of the Lee case.

“I have not heard of the matter you just told me,” Taiwan’s Central News Agency quoted Chen as saying.

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The disappearance of Lee triggered concerns over whether he faces a fate similar to that of five Hong Kong publishers who were spirited away to the mainland in late 2015.

According to US-funded news outlet Radio Free Asia, Lee was supposed to meet mainland writer Liu Ermu. But, Liu never saw Lee, and the activist’s phone has been in voicemail mode since his entry into Zhuhai.

Chiu E-ling, secretary general of the Taiwan Association for Human Rights, said authorities on the island had not done enough.

“The government, not just the Mainland Affairs Council, but also President Tsai Ing-wen and the security agency, should be more proactive in dealing with cases like this,” she said.