Taipei, April 10 (CNA) The wife of a Taiwanese human rights and democracy advocate being detained in China was unable to fly to Beijing on Monday after she was told her travel permit for China had been revoked.
Lee Ching-yu (李凈瑜) was turned back at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport when she was told by Air China ground staff as she was checking in that her travel permit had been revoked and that she could not board the plane.
Lee intended to go to Beijing on Monday in a bid to meet Chinese authorities to find out where her husband, Lee Ming-che (李明哲), is being detained and the reasons for detaining him.
She also hoped to see her husband to be sure that he was safe and healthy.
Feeling "shocked" and "sad" at the Chinese government's "strong use of power" to thwart her trip, she said the move proved that "China's arrest of Lee was improper."
She said it was hard to believe that a country as powerful as China would resort to such petty tactics.
"People must have freedom and dignity. Why should they be treated this way?" she asked.
Members of civic groups who accompanied Lee Ching-yu to the airport to see her off said the airline informed them that her travel permit had been revoked, making it impossible for her to check in to the flight.
It did not say, however, when the Beijing government notified the airline that it was revoking Lee Ching-yu's passport or why it was doing so.
One of the civic groups' representatives said Lee's family has shown good will in its desire to go to Beijing in person and meet with Lee Ming-che to ensure his safety.
"We deeply regret that Beijing government is unwilling to give such a humble request an opportunity," one representative said.
The civic groups said efforts to secure Lee Ming-che's release will not stop because of Monday's setback, and they will continue to assist Lee Ching-yu in negotiating with related agencies.
Lee Ming-che, a former Democratic Progressive Party worker who is now a staff member at Wenshan Community College in Taipei and a volunteer at local NGO Covenants Watch, was detained by China after entering the city of Zhuhai via Macau on March 19.
China confirmed 10 days later that Lee was being detained on suspicion of endangering national security. But it has yet to disclose where he is being held or any details about his alleged violations.
More than 130 local and overseas human rights groups and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have joined a petition drive to call for China to immediately release the activist.
Jerome A. Cohen, a professor at New York University's School of Law, said last week 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 global NGOs that are concerned about China's human rights, Cohen said.
(By Bien Chin-feng, Lu Kang-chun and Lilian Wu)