Ball in China's court on visits to detained activist: SEF

2017/04/05 23:17:17 fontsize-small fontsize-default fontsize-big
Lee Ching-yu, CNA file photo

Lee Ching-yu, CNA file photo

Taipei, April 5 (CNA) Taiwan's Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) said Wednesday that it now up to China to decide whether SEF officials and the wife of a Taiwanese human rights advocate detained there can visit him.

The SEF has informed its Chinese counterpart, the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits (ARATS), that its officials and the man's wife wish to visit him but has not received a response, SEF Deputy Secretary-General and spokeswoman Lee Li-chen (李麗珍) said at a press conference.

On Tuesday, the SEF said it hoped members of its staff would be allowed to accompany the wife of Lee Ming-che (李明哲) on a visit to China. Lee been detained in China since March 19 on suspicion of endangering that country's national security, according to Beijing.

Lee Ching-yu (李凈瑜) said Tuesday that she was not prepared to wait any longer for information about her husband and had booked a flight to Beijing on an EVA Air flight on April 10.

Since Lee Ming-che, a former Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) worker, was reported missing on March 21, Taiwan authorities and the SEF have been calling for information about his situation but have received little response.

On March 29, Ma Xiaoguang (馬曉光), a spokesman for China's Taiwan Affairs Office, said Lee was had been detained and was under investigation for alleged involvement in activities that endangered China's national security.

Asked whether Lee's wife could enter China as planned, the SEF said it would try to verify whether her travel permit to China will be nullified.

On the question of whether its officials will be able to accompany Lee's wife on her planned trip, the SEF said they will go as far as they are allowed.

The SEF and ARATS are semi-official bodies set up by Taiwan and China to handle issues related to civilian exchanges in the absence of official ties.

Addressing criticisms that the Taiwan government has not been proactive in handling the issue, Lee Li-chen said the government's priority is to ensure Lee Ming-che's safety and secure his release as soon as possible.

Lee Ming-che, an employee at Wenshan Community College in Taipei, went missing on March 19 after he entered the city of Zhuhai from Macau.

Dialogue between Taiwan and China has been suspended by Beijing since the DPP's Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) took office as Taiwan's president in May 2016, mainly due to her refusal to heed Beijing's calls to recognize the "1992 consensus" as the sole political foundation for cross-strait exchanges.

The "1992 consensus" refers to a tacit understanding reached in 1992 between the two sides that there is only one China, with both sides free to interpret what that means.

(By Miao Chung-lun and Elizabeth Hsu)

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