On March 19, Taiwanese human rights and democracy activist Lee Ming-che traveled to China and has not been heard from since. It took China 10 days to confirm that Lee was, in fact, being detained for “endangering national security,” but he has yet to be formally charged. At least one Taiwanese person is detained in China for various political reasons every year, but this incident marks the first time a Taiwanese human rights activist has been arrested in China.
Lee’s detention is ominous because it will only serve to worsen the already tense relationship between Taiwan and China. The Trump administration has so far been conspicuously silent on the issue.
Lee, who regularly travels to China, never made it to his hotel. He had discussed Taiwan’s democratization on WeChat, a popular Chinese messaging app, has worked with human rights lawyers within China and even mailed books on Taiwan’s democracy to China. Indeed, he was almost begging for attention, knowing full well that the Chinese Communist Party censors such information from its citizens.
Over the past several years, China has passed notoriously vague laws, particularly the National Security Law and the Overseas NGO Management Law, limiting what nongovernmental organizations and activists are able to do insides its borders. It is difficult for people and organizations to know when they have broken one of these laws precisely due to their ambiguity.