The leader of a small Taiwan political party also faces charges of ‘secession’ while a Chinese journalist has been accused of spying.
Li Yanhe, a Taiwan publisher who went missing while visiting Shanghai last month, is under investigation for suspected national security crimes, Beijing says.
Li, the editor-in-chief of Gusa Publishing, is being investigated “on suspicion of engaging in activities endangering national security”, Zhu Fenglian, spokeswoman for Beijing’s Taiwan Affairs Office, said at a news conference on Wednesday, promising that his “legitimate rights and interests” would be protected.
Gusa has published books on history and politics critical of China’s ruling Communist Party, including a history of alleged Chinese oppression in the western region of Xinjiang and a title on Beijing’s global propaganda efforts. In 2015, a number of Hong Kong booksellers known for putting out works critical of the Chinese government disappeared before reappearing on the mainland.
Beijing’s confirmation that Li is under investigation came a day after authorities formally pressed charges of “secession” against Taiwan activist Yang Chih-yuan, the leader of a small political party that backs independence for the self-ruled island.
China claims Taiwan as its own and has not ruled out the use of force to take control of the island. It has been ratcheting up the pressure since President Tsai Ing-wen was first elected in 2016. Beijing accuses her of being a “separatist” although Tsai maintains it is up to the people of Taiwan to choose their own future.
Activists and Taiwan-based journalists raised the alarm about Li’s disappearance last week with dissident Chinese poet Bei Ling writing in a Facebook post that Li was believed to have been “secretly detained” in Shanghai while on a visit to see family last month. A group of writers and scholars issued a statement on Saturday calling for his release.
Separately, the family of veteran Chinese journalist Dong Yuyu said he was detained on espionage charges during a meeting with a Japanese diplomat in a Beijing restaurant. Dong, the deputy head of the editorial department at Guangming Daily, often wrote liberal-leaning articles and regularly met foreign journalists and diplomats to help him understand global trends.
His family said Chinese authorities regarded such contacts as evidence of spying, which can carry a jail term of more than 10 years.
More than 60 people, including prominent foreign journalists and academics, signed a petition urging the Chinese government to reconsider the charges against Dong, saying meetings with foreign diplomats and journalists should not be regarded as evidence of espionage.
“Who would want to come to China to meet Chinese journalists, academics or diplomats if these meetings could be used as evidence that the Chinese side is committing espionage?” they wrote in the petition.
In recent years, a number of journalists and writers have faced accusations of spying in China, including Cheng Lei, an Australia news presenter who was working with China’s state-broadcaster CGTN when she was detained in August 2020.
She faced a secret trial in March 2022 and has yet to hear the verdict.
A year on from the trial, Australia has expressed “deep concerns” at the delays.