TAIPEI, Taiwan — Chinese authorities confirmed on Wednesday that a Taiwanese publisher missing in China had been detained on suspicion of violating security laws, raising concerns in Taiwan that Beijing was sounding a warning to the island’s vibrant publishing industry.
The publisher Li Yanhe, who goes by the pseudonym Fucha, is a Chinese national who has lived in Taiwan since 2009. His company, Gusa Publishing House, is known in Taiwan for publishing books critical of the Chinese Communist Party. According to his colleagues and friends, Mr. Li returned to China to visit relatives early last month, but contact was lost soon after.
Pei Ling, a Chinese writer living in Taiwan, said on Wednesday that Li Wenliang’s detention was “a heavy blow that will have a chilling effect”. “Presses, publishers, and freedom of the press are basic indicators of an open society around the world. I don’t think he should be condemned like this for publishing a book that China can’t accept.”
Mr Lee’s detention could be a new test of already strained relations between Taiwan and mainland China. Beijing claims Taiwan is an autonomous democracy that is part of Chinese territory and must accept reunification. But many in Taiwan reject Beijing’s claims and are resisted by Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s authoritarian rule, including his crackdown on Hong Kong, which has cooled the publishing industry and stifled many freedoms, such as the right to protest.
Zhu Fenglian, a spokeswoman for the government’s Taiwan Affairs Office, told reporters in Beijing that Mr Li was under investigation for “engaging in activities that endanger national security”. She did not elaborate on the charges against Mr. Li, but said China would protect his legal rights.
In China, national security crimes can refer to anything from espionage to criticism of the Communist Party. People accused of such crimes can be detained for months without access to family or lawyers.
For Li Shufu’s supporters, the case is reminiscent of the disappearance of five Hong Kong booksellers in 2015. Chinese investigators secretly detained the men over their ties to a company that published scathing, sensationalized portraits of Xi Jinping and other Communist Party leaders. One of the booksellers, Gui Minhai, was sentenced to 10 years in prison on charges of providing intelligence abroad. Others were eventually released after guilty pleas were aired on Chinese state media.
The investigation into Mr Li is the second politically charged case linked to Taiwan that China has confirmed this week. Jerry Yang, a Taiwanese man, has been formally arrested and charged with “separatist activities,” prosecutors said Tuesday. Mr Yang is vice-chairman of the Taiwan National Party, a small party that promotes Taiwan’s independence. Ms. Zhu, a spokeswoman for China’s Taiwan Affairs Office, said his case was “another wake-up call for Taiwan independence forces”.
Publisher Mr. Li was born in Northeast China in 1971. Before moving to Taiwan, he established his own publisher in Shanghai, working at the Shanghai Literature and Art Publishing House.
He is proud to be a descendant of the Manchus, the Qing dynasty ethnic group that ruled China from 1644 to 1912. The Chinese name of the publishing house that Mr. Li founded in Taiwan in 2009 means “Eight Banners”, a reference to the administrative divisions ruled by the Manchu Qing.
Gusa Publishing produces a wide range of books, including many translations. Its products are dominated by mainstream non-fiction works, such as “The China Record: An Assessment of the People’s Republic of China” by Georgia Tech professor Feiling Wang, and the translation of “The Long Game: China’s Grand Strategy to Replace the American Order,” by Rush Doshi.
Given the tension between the two sides of the strait and the fact that he remains a citizen of the People’s Republic of China, it may be difficult for Taiwan authorities to meet with him while he is in mainland detention.
“Fu Cha was born in mainland China, and that probably prevented him from leaving the mainland,” said Lam Wing-kei, one of the Hong Kong booksellers detained in China in 2015. . Lam has lived in Taiwan since 2019. “Publishers in Taiwan should be careful because you can never change China’s mind,” he said.
Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment. Mr. Li’s Taiwanese wife has declined to speak publicly about his case.
“We believe Fucha has committed no crimes in exercising his freedom of speech and publication,” said a statement released over the weekend by a group of Gusa Press writers, translators and business partners. “We urge the Chinese authorities to release Fu Cha immediately, reunite him with his family as soon as possible, and return to his beloved publishing job.”
Chris Buckley Contribution report.