The leader of a small political party in Taiwan is also facing charges of “separatism”, while a Chinese journalist has been charged with espionage.
Li Yanhe, a Taiwanese publisher who disappeared while visiting Shanghai last month, is being investigated for suspected national security crimes, Beijing said.
Zhu Fenglian, spokeswoman for the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council in Beijing, said at a news conference on Wednesday that Li Zheng, editor-in-chief of Gusa Publishing House, was under investigation “on suspicion of engaging in activities endangering national security” and assured that his “legal identity” and rights” would be protected.
Gusa has published historical and political books critical of China’s ruling Communist Party, including a history of alleged Chinese repression in the western region of Xinjiang and a book on Beijing’s global propaganda efforts. In 2015, some Hong Kong booksellers known for publishing works critical of the Chinese government disappeared before reemerging on the mainland.
Beijing’s confirmation that Li was being investigated came a day after authorities formally charged Taiwanese activist Jerry Yang, the leader of a small political party that supports independence for the self-governing island, with “separatism.”
China claims Taiwan as its own and does not rule out using force to control the island. It has been ratcheting up the pressure since President Tsai Ing-wen was first elected in 2016. Beijing accuses her of being a “separatist” although Tsai maintains it is up to the people of Taiwan to choose their own future.
Activists and Taiwanese journalists raised alarms about Li’s disappearance last week, with Chinese dissident poet Bei Ling writing in a Facebook post that Li is believed to have been “secretly detained” while visiting family in Shanghai last month. A group of writers and academics issued a statement Saturday calling for his release.
Separately, veteran Chinese journalist Dong Yuyu was detained on espionage charges while meeting Japanese diplomats at a restaurant in Beijing, the family said. Dong, the deputy head of the editorial department of Guangming Daily, often writes liberal-leaning articles and regularly meets foreign journalists and diplomats to help him understand global trends.
Chinese authorities view such contacts as evidence of espionage, punishable by up to 10 years in prison, his family said.
More than 60 people, including prominent foreign journalists and academics, signed a petition urging the Chinese government to reconsider the charges against Dong, saying meetings with foreign diplomats and journalists should not be considered evidence of espionage.
“Who wants to come to China to meet Chinese journalists, scholars or diplomats if these meetings can be used as evidence of Chinese espionage?” they wrote in the petition.
A number of journalists and writers have faced charges of espionage in China in recent years, including Australian news anchor Cheng Lei, who was working for Chinese state broadcaster CGTN when she was detained in August 2020.
She faces a secret trial in March 2022, but a verdict has yet to be heard.
A year after the trial, Australia expressed “deep concern” about the delay.