The US should keep a low profile if it wants to be involved in efforts to get China to release Taiwanese detainee Lee Ming-che (李明哲), former American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) chairman Richard Bush said on Wednesday.
“I think that if we’re involved, it would be good that we do it vigorously, but quietly. We know how to do that,” Bush told reporters after a seminar organized by the US-based Global Taiwan Institute after being asked if he thought the US would involve itself in Lee’s case.
Bush, who is now the director of the Brookings Institution’s Center for East Asia Policy Studies in Washington, said he hoped that the Chinese authorities “just decide that they’ve talked to him [Lee] enough and they let him go.”
Bush was one of 44 academics and former US officials who signed a joint open letter to Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) urging him to assist in the speedy release of Lee and ensure his safe return to Taiwan (“Open Letter to Chinese President Xi,” April 17, page 8).
The letter’s writers called Lee’s arrest and detention “detrimental to the mutual trust that is very much needed between Taiwan and China.”
“Any lengthy detention or legal procedure will damage China’s image, not only in Taiwan, but in countries around the world that uphold due process of law and human rights,” they said.
Lee, a former Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) employee who now works at the Wenshan Community College in Taipei and is a volunteer at the non-governmental organization Covenants Watch, was detained after entering the Chinese mainland via Macau on March 19.
Chinese officials have said that Lee is being investigated over matters related to China’s national security.
Bush said that China’s handling of Lee’s case shows the “stovepipe” nature of its government system.
“You have different agencies, each doing their job, so the [Chinese] Ministry of Public Security, which is responsible for carrying out domestic security, doesn’t necessarily think about the impact of detaining or arresting Mr Lee on cross-strait relations,” he said.