Taiwan says local business leader has been missing in mainland China for 14 months

Minnie Chan

Just days after Beijing said it had detained a Taiwanese man who was reported missing by his family last month, authorities in Taipei said on Friday they are still trying to trace a business leader from the self-ruled island who disappeared while on a trip to southeast China more than a year ago.

Tsai Jin-shu, chairman of the Federation of Southern Taiwan Cross-Strait Associations, travelled to Xiamen in Fujian province on July 21, 2018 to attend a food fair and has not been seen since, the Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) said.

“The SEF sent a letter to the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait [Arats] to seek Tsai’s whereabouts immediately after his family approached the SEF in late August [2018],” it said in a statement.

The SEF is a semi-official organisation that liaises with the mainland-based Arats on issues across the Taiwan Strait. It said it had sought help through various channels on the mainland to locate the 60-year-old Tsai, but “there is no result so far”.

The announcement came after the Beijing-based Taiwan Affairs Office said on Wednesday that Taiwanese Lee Meng-chu was being investigated for engaging in “activities that endanger state security”.

Lee’s family and friends said they lost contact with him on August 20 after he had travelled to Hong Kong and onwards to the mainland city of Shenzhen.

Lee, who is a volunteer activity organiser from southern Taiwan, is reported to have distributed photographs of mainland Chinese troops massing equipment just outside Hong Kong, where there have been 14 weeks of anti-government protests triggered by a now-withdrawn extradition bill.

Beijing, however, did not elaborate on its reasons for investigating him.

Beijing says Lee Meng-chu is being investigated for engaging in “activities that endanger state security”. Photo: AP

While little is known about Tsai’s disappearance, earlier Taiwanese media reports said he too had been detained on “national security grounds”.

In recent years, the business leader is known to have published several commentaries criticising Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen and her independence-learning Democratic Progressive Party.

The island’s leader expressed her concern earlier in the week over Lee’s detention.

Taiwan asks Beijing for information on missing man

Hung Chi-chang, a former head of the SEF, warned of the dangers facing Taiwanese citizens when they travel to the Chinese mainland.

“In Taiwan, people are used to being able to criticise the president or any government officials, but on the mainland, comments about the leader can be deemed irresponsible,” he said.

People should be aware of the lack of a fair and independent legal system, he said.

“Only a few cases [of people disappearing] have been reported, but the absence of legal transparency suggests the actual number is probably higher.”

In March 2017, Taiwanese rights activist Lee Ming-che disappeared while on a visit to the southern mainland city of Guangzhou only to reappear six months later in court in Changsha, the capital of central China’s Hunan province.

The 44-year-old, who was known to have had discussions about democracy with mainland Chinese on social media, was sentenced to five years in prison.

Taiwanese rights activist Lee Ming-che was sentenced to five years in prison by a court in central China in 2017. Photo: Weibo

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