Intellectuals in Taiwan on Friday warned writers and publishers against visiting mainland China and Hong Kong after it emerged that a missing editor living on the self-ruled island had been arrested on suspicion of national security offences.
Activists and journalists in Taiwan sounded the alarm last month after the disappearance of Li Yanhee, who was born in China and lives in Taiwan.
Beijing confirmed at the time that he was under investigation for “undermining national security”.
In Taipei on Friday, Taiwan-based editors and activists told reporters that Lee’s case had had a “terrifying effect” on the island’s literary community and many now dread going to China.
Joshua Wang, a former colleague of Lee, said that people in the media, publishing and cultural fields are urging those in the sector to stay away from China.
“It doesn’t just apply to the publishing sector. Even people who wrote something critical of China on Facebook feel scared,” he said.
“Beware of passing through Hong Kong,” he added.
Chinese President Xi Jinping has overseen a crackdown on freedoms during his decade in power, intensifying pressure on dissidents, rights groups and others critical of the government.-
Lee’s case recalls the disappearance of five Hong Kong booksellers who distributed leaflets about China’s leaders, only to be discovered later that they were arrested in China.-
A dissident poet reported last month that he believed Li had been “secretly detained” in Shanghai while visiting family in March.
And the owner of an independent book store, Zhang Chang, said Friday that he “doesn’t dare to visit China.”
Lee uses the pseudonym “Fucha”. His company, Gusa, publishes books on history and politics in the ruling Communist Party in China, one of which touches on suspicions related to the persecution of Uyghurs in Xinjiang (west).
China’s current broadly worded national security law prohibits any “separatist activities” or “subversion,” among other acts that pose a threat to the state.
In 2017, the Chinese authorities imprisoned Taiwanese pro-democracy activist Lee Ming-chi for five years on national security charges, only to be released last year.
Reporters Without Borders’ East Asia bureau chief, Cedric Alviani, called for Lee’s immediate release.
He criticized what he described as a “widespread crackdown on the press and freedom of information” in China.