CDT cartoonist Badiucao continues his series of portraits of political detainees in China with one of Taiwanese NGO worker activist Lee Ming-che, who went missing after entering China from Macau on March 19. Mainland authorities have offered little explanation of his situation beyond an eventual acknowledgement that he was being held on suspicion of endangering national security. Lee’s online discussions of Taiwanese democracy with mainland friends and distribution of political books to them may have been a factor. The case, which prompted protest from activists and NGOs, has widely been seen as a reflection of the chilled climate for civil society under China’s recently implemented foreign NGO management law.
Officials’ near silence on the case prompted Lee’s wife, Lee Ching-yu, to announce that she would travel to Beijing in search of answers. She was due to leave on Monday, but as Chris Horton reports at The New York Times, the trip was blocked:
The wife, Lee Ching-yu, said at a news conference at Taoyuan International Airport, in northern Taiwan, that her mainland travel permit had been canceled by China, making her ineligible to board her Monday afternoon flight to seek answers about the whereabouts and status of her husband, Lee Ming-cheh.
[…] It appears that China may have contacted Ms. Lee through unofficial channels in an attempt to silence her. Ms. Lee said an unofficial “fixer” presented her with a photocopied letter on Friday that seemed to have been written by her husband. Claiming that he had written the letter against his will, Ms. Lee said she would not accept any letter or statement by her husband until she had seen him.
Ms. Lee said the fixer told her that if she ceased her public campaign to highlight Mr. Lee’s plight, he would then be released, but if she persisted, a Guangdong television station would broadcast a confession made by Mr. Lee. Coerced televised confessions have become common under China’s president, Xi Jinping.
“I ask you this,” Ms. Lee said at the airport while holding the photocopied letter, “If this isn’t a threat, what is?” [Source]
Hong Kong’s Apple Daily published the fixer’s account of their meeting, which was partially translated by Emily Y. Wu on Twitter. “To help Mr. Lee,” he reportedly explained, “a positive negotiation environment must be established. Some of the oppositional activities must stop. Only then can negotiations continue.” He added that “since my identity has been exposed, I must excuse myself from the effort.”
Taiwan’s relative freedom was highlighted last week by Reporters Without Borders’ decision to locate its new Asian bureau there instead of in Hong Kong, where Beijing’s increasingly assertive influence has fueled mounting concern. On Sunday, Taipei mayor Ko Wen-je commented that Hong Kong “is not only small, but it also does not have democratic elections. What is there to envy in Hong Kong? It doesn’t even have a soul that is free.” Hong Kong activist Joshua Wong warned in response that “Hong Kong is tomorrow’s Taiwan. […] when it comes to the China factor, it is necessary for Hongkongers and Taiwanese to join hands.”
Meanwhile, a Taipei court jailed 11 on Monday over the occupation of Taiwan’s legislative chamber in 2014. Twenty-two others were acquitted last month. The occupation was part of the student-led Sunflower Movement, which arose from suspicion of economic integration between Taiwan and China.
You can support Badiucao by buying ”Watching Big Brother: Political Cartoons by Badiucao,” available in EPUB and PDF formats. The book covers the early years of Xi’s presidency, from December 2013 to January 2016. No contribution is required, but all donations will go to Badiucao to support his artwork. CDT is also selling merchandise featuring Badiucao’s work in our Zazzle store, with all profits again going to the artist. See also interviews with the artist by CDT, PRI’s The World and Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s RN. Many of his earlier cartoons are available via CDT.