After it was confirmed in April 2017 that Taiwanese human rights advocate Lee Ming-che (李明哲) had been detained by Chinese authorities on charges of subversion of state power, the government, lawmakers from the pan-green camp, non-governmental organizations and the media urged China to release him. Many news conferences were held, rallies were staged, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs made sure that the US and the EU raised the issue of Lee’s detention with China at international events.
At the time, the slogan “everyone could be Lee Ming-che” circulated widely on social media and even made its way into the press.
However, a string of incidents since last year have shown that not everyone detained by China receives the same level of support that Lee did. The attention given to others amounts to not even a fraction of what Lee was given.
China’s Taiwan Affairs Office (TAO) on Wednesday last week confirmed that Shih Cheng-ping (施正屏), a retired National Taiwan Normal University professor, was being detained on suspicion of actions that were harmful to China’s state security, and that two other Taiwanese, Southern Taiwan Union of Cross-strait Relations Associations chairman Tsai Chin-shu (蔡金樹) and Taiwan United Nations Alliance member Morrison Lee (李孟居) were being held on the same charge. The Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) issued a generic, meek response, calling on Chinese authorities to heed due legal procedure when trying the litigants.
In contrast, after Lee Ming-che’s detention came to light, the MAC repeatedly objected to the TAO over the Chinese authorities’ opaque handling of his case and infringements regarding his rights as a prisoner. The same things that the government and the public have said and done for Lee Ming-che also apply to Shih, Tsai and Morrison Lee, yet there is a world of difference in the attitude shown toward Lee Ming-che and the three other men.
The MAC last week said that there are 44 other unresolved cases involving Taiwanese who have “disappeared” in China since the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) returned to power in 2016.
As such, one question must be asked: What has the government done to help these people and their families?
Even though Shih, an editorial writer for the China Times Media Group, and Tsai, a staunch Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) supporter, are known to have political views that vastly contradict that of the DPP administration, they are Republic of China nationals who deserve equal attention to Lee Ming-che when it comes to protecting their rights.
Although people might question what efforts to rescue Taiwanese who have been arbitrarily detained by China would amount to, that is another issue. Not voicing strong opposition gives the impression that Taiwan is treating China with connivance, which could further embolden Beijing and endanger more Taiwanese in China.
Meanwhile, the MAC has a responsibility to warn the public of the risks of going to China, just as the US Department of State issues travel advisories for its citizens, recommending that they do not go to countries ruled by volatile regimes or plagued by social unrest or terrorist activities.
Taipei must remember that it is dealing with what is first and foremost a barbaric regime. The internment camps in Xinjiang and the brutal crackdowns on Hong Kong campuses are just two examples of the Chinese Communist Party’s practically endless list of atrocities. Taiwanese authorities should take measures to inform people of the risks they face if they visit China, especially people who have been involved in activities that could make them seem like a threat to the Chinese government.
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