U.S. should stay low if it wants to help free activist: ex-AIT head

2017/04/20 13:56:12
CNA file photo

CNA file photo

Washington, April 20 (CNA) A former chairman of the American Institute of Taiwan (AIT) said Wednesday that the United States should keep a low profile if it wants to be involved in efforts to free Lee Ming-che (李明哲), a Taiwanese human rights activist detained in China.

"I think that if we're involved, it would be good that we do it vigorously but quietly. We know how to do that," Richard Bush told reporters after a seminar organized by the Washington-based Global Taiwan Institute, in response to a question on whether he thinks the U.S. will involve itself in Lee's case.

Bush said he hopes that the Chinese authorities "just decide that they've talked to him (Lee) enough and they let him go."

Bush, the director of the Brookings Center for East Asia Policy Studies, is one of 44 scholars and former U.S. officials who recently penned a joint open letter to Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平), in which they urged Xi to assist in the speedy release of Lee and ensure his safe return to Taiwan.

Lee was detained after entering Zhuhai City via Macau on March 19. He used to work for Taiwan's pro-independence ruling Democratic Progressive Party and is now a staff member at Wenshan Community College in Taipei, as well as a volunteer at the local NGO Covenants Watch.

Chinese officials have said that Lee is being investigated over matters related to China's national security.

Bush said Wednesday that China's handling of Lee's case shows the "stovepipe" nature of its government system.

"You have different agencies, each doing their job, so the Ministry of Public Security, which is responsible for carrying out domestic security, doesn't necessarily think about the impact of detaining or arresting Mr. Lee on cross-strait relations," he said.

In their open letter, Bush and the other signatories called Lee's arrest and detention "detrimental to the mutual trust that is very much needed between Taiwan and China."

"Any lengthy detention or legal procedure will damage China's image, not only in Taiwan, but in countries around the world that uphold due process of law and human rights," the letter said.

(By Rita Cheng and Christie Chen)
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