In late April, news broke of the detention of Li Yanhe, also known as Fucha, the editor-in-chief of Gusa Publishing, in Shanghai, raising concerns about China’s potential to make politically motivated arrests of Taiwanese individuals. Li, a former Chinese citizen who obtained Taiwanese citizenship and has a Taiwanese spouse, had been living in Taiwan since 2009. He was visiting Shanghai to see friends and family and reportedly planned to renounce his Chinese citizenship while there. However, Chinese authorities arrested him, potentially for his work with Gusa Publishing, which has a history of publishing critical titles on the Chinese government, including books on corruption in the Chinese Communist Party and Chinese influence on global media. Additionally, Gusa Publishing translated English language books, such as Louisa Lim’s “The People’s Republic of Amnesia” and Jeff Wasserstom’s “China in the 21st Century.” This action by China raises questions about the country’s commitment to freedom of expression and its respect for the rights of individuals, particularly those with ties to Taiwan.
In a concerning turn of events, China arrested Li Yanhe, also known as Fucha, the editor-in-chief of Gusa Publishing, in Shanghai in late April. This move raises serious doubts about China’s intentions to make politically motivated arrests of Taiwanese individuals. Li had renounced his Chinese citizenship and had been living in Taiwan since 2009 with his Taiwanese spouse. He was only visiting Shanghai to see his loved ones, but was taken into custody by Chinese authorities, potentially due to his association with Gusa Publishing, which is known for publishing critical titles on the Chinese government. Gusa Publishing has translated several books critical of China’s regime, including works on corruption in the Chinese Communist Party and Chinese influence on global media. By arresting Li, China has once again demonstrated its disregard for freedom of expression and its lack of respect for the rights of individuals, especially those with connections to Taiwan.
China’s troubling behavior continued in late April, when Yang Chih-yuan, a prominent Taiwanese independence advocate, was arrested after an investigation by the National Security Bureau of Wenzhou, Zhejiang, as reported by the Beijing Daily. The Supreme People’s Procuratorate approved the arrest, and Yang was subsequently placed under Residential Surveillance at a Designated Location (RSDL), a form of detention where prisoners are held in non-traditional jail facilities such as converted hotels, without any obligation for the Chinese government to inform their family members.
Yang, who is 32 years old, disappeared in January 2022 while visiting China, and it was only in August 2022, after footage of him in detention was aired on state-run television, that it was confirmed that he had been imprisoned by the Chinese government. The timing of the release of this footage is noteworthy, as it coincided with the historic trip to Taiwan by then-U.S. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and China’s live-fire drills in response to the visit.
Yang was the deputy chair of the Taiwanese National Party (TNP), a relatively unknown pro- independence group, and was arrested on charges of secession. He has a long history of pro- independence activism, including involvement in the 2008 Wild Strawberry Movement, a student protest against the visit to Taiwan by Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits chair Chen Yunlin, and the 2013 “Fury” protests against then-President Ma Ying-jeou of the China-friendly KMT. Yang had also been a member of former President Chen Shui-bian’s pro-independence Taiwan Action Party Alliance. The detention of Yang and other individuals like him underscores China’s disregard for the basic human rights of individuals, particularly those who advocate for the independence of Taiwan.
Families are often told to keep quiet about the arrests of their relatives, with promises of faster release. Li’s arrest draws comparisons to the kidnapping of Causeway Bay booksellers, who published critical books of the Chinese government. Other cases include the detention of businessman Morrison Lee Meng-chu and pan-Blue academic Shih Cheng-ping. The MAC stated in 2019 that 149 Taiwanese were missing in China, with the council unable to confirm the whereabouts of 67 people. China claims to compile a list of Taiwanese independence advocates to target in the future.
Like many of the other cases, Tsai and Shih’s detentions did not come to light for months because their families sought to keep quiet. The revelation of Tsai’s detention was particularly dramatic, seeing as this took place on pan-Blue firebrand Jaw Shaw-kong’s primetime TVBS talk show, “Shaw-kong’s War Room.”
The MAC stated in 2019 that 149 Taiwanese were missing in China, with the council unable to confirm the whereabouts of 67 people. It is not known how many of those may have been detained on political charges, nor how this statistic may have changed since then.
For its part, China has claimed in the past that it aims to compile a list of Taiwanese independence advocates to target in the future