Non-governmental organization (NGO) workers face increasing uncertainties and risks in China and more arrests, such as that of Taiwanese Lee Ming-che (李明哲), could occur, Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) advisers said in their latest report.
Beijing has been tightening its grip on foreign NGOs since the Foreign Non-Governmental Organizations’ Activities Management Act took effect in January, requiring all foreign NGOs operating in China to register with the government, the report said.
The government should respond to Beijing’s hardening stance “cautiously and with subtlety,” and it should have a response strategy ifor the possibility that other Taiwanese activists might be detained, the report said.
China has stepped up its surveillance on foreign NGOs and risks have increased across the board, although organizations engaged in humanitarian relief, poverty relief and community development are somewhat less at risk, they said.
Lee, a staff member at Wenshan Community College in Taipei and volunteer at the NGO Covenant Watch, used to work for the Democratic Progressive Party. He disappeared on March 19 after entering China from Macau.
The Chinese government later confirmed his detention and on May 26 announced that it had charged him with subversion of state sovereignty.
However, Chinese authorities have not said where Lee is being held or released information about his health, and their actions have had a profound impact on Taiwan’s NGO operations in China, the report said.
According to the report, some advisers said Lee’s case is unique in that his family has refused to make under-the-table deals with the Chinese authorities, a response that is unprecedented for Chinese officials.
Taiwanese NGOs working in China should be more vigilant and cooperate with each other, as the severity of China’s national security enforcement is likely to continue into the future, the report said.
The government should regularly update NGOs on information relevant to the safety of their employees and develop protocols to make cross-strait exchanges by NGOs more predictable, the council’s advisers said.
The government should inform all Taiwanese traveling to China about the potential risks and tips for staying safe, they said.
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