Taipei, April 7 (CNA) A total of 136 local and overseas human rights groups and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have joined a petition drive to call for China to immediately release detained Taiwanese human rights and pro-democracy advocate Lee Ming-che (李明哲), according to a rights group on Friday.
Lee, a former Democratic Progressive Party worker, a staff member at Wenshan Community College in Taipei, as well as a volunteer at the local NGO Covenant Watch, was detained by China after entering the mainland's Zhuhai city via Macau on March 19.
China confirmed 10 days later that Lee has been detained on suspicious of endangering national security. But it has yet to disclose where he is being held or any details about his alleged violations.
Chiu E-Ling (邱伊翎), secretary general of the Taiwan Association for Human Rights (TAHR), said it has mobilized a global signature drive, and 136 local and international groups have so far joined the campaign, including Freedom House, Human Rights Watch, United For Human Rights, as well as Cheng NaN-Jung Foundation (鄭南榕基金會).
Sophia Richardson, China director at Human Rights Watch, said through video hookup that they are worried Lee may have been tortured or abused. She called for China's authorities to ensure that Lee's family and Taiwan's representative could see him next Monday.
Lee's wife, Lee Ching-yu (李凈瑜), has said she would travel to Beijing that day to try and visit Chinese government offices regarding her husband.
She and the rights groups have insisted Lee has committed no crime and that what he did -- sharing his views about Taiwan's democratic experience with Chinese friends he made on social media and raising funds to help detained Chinese human rights activists online -- are not considered crimes in any civilized society.
Meanwhile, Fang Yung-sheng,(方勇升), secretary general of Amnesty International (AI) Taiwan, said that the AI has launched an emergency rescue and 120-hour urgent petition drive to urge the Chinese government to release Lee.
Fang added AI is highly concerned about the impact of the case on human rights in Taiwan and China, as well as the follow-up development.
Jerome A. Cohen, a professor at New York University School of Law, said through a video hookup at TAHR's news conference on Friday that Lee was the first overseas NGO worker to be detained under China's new law regulating registration, activities, reporting and monitoring of overseas NGOs in mainland China, which went into effect in January.
It's a threat to Taiwan's NGOs, and a serious warning to the global NGOs that are concerned about China's human rights, Cohen said.
(By Liu Kuan-ting and Lilian Wu)