The wife of missing NGO worker Lee Ming-cheh said Tuesday that Taiwanese officials have confirmed to her that her husband is being held by Chinese authorities.

Lee has not been heard from since March 19, when his wife took him to Taoyuan airport near Taipei to fly to Macau. Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council – the top government agency in charge of cross-strait relations – earlier confirmed with the Chinese police that Lee had crossed the border from Macau to Zhuhai at 11:51am that day, Taiwanese media reported. The Chinese government has not issued any statements regarding Lee.

Lee Ming-cheh. Photo: Facebook.

A government unit told Lee Ching-yu, Lee’s wife, that her husband is being held by the Chinese Ministry of State Security forces late Monday night, Lee said at a press conference in front of the Straights Exchange Foundation (SEF) – Taiwan’s unofficial authority to negotiate with the mainland.

The Ministry of State Security is China’s intelligence and security agency.

Cheng Shiow-jiuan, director of the Taipei Wenshan Community Centre, where Lee Ming-cheh is a manager, told HKFP that the Taiwanese government contacted his wife indirectly through unofficial channels.

Lee declined to name the governmental department that gave her the information.

Investigation urged

Aside from his role at the community college, Lee also volunteers with human rights NGOs and shares Taiwan’s experiences with democracy with friends on the mainland through Chinese messaging app WeChat, Cheng said.

“Lee Ming-cheh is a dedicated NGO worker in Taiwan. Like many of us who are NGO workers, he cares a lot about the development of democracy and human rights across the world.”

“We hope that the Chinese government will act according to what is expected of a civilised country and make a response or conduct an investigation for us,” she added.

Macau. File photo: Tom Grundy/HKFP.

A spokesperson for the Mainland Affairs Council said last week that China’s strict new law regulating foreign NGOs in the country may have increased risks for Taiwanese people engaging with those involved in civil society.

Lee’s wife also handed medication and some money to the SEF in the hope that it would make its way to her husband, who has high blood pressure.

A SEF spokesperson said they will pass the medication and the money to its mainland counterpart, the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits.

Lee formerly worked for the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) in Taiwan’s Taoyuan county. The DPP is nominally – but no longer outspokenly – pro-independence. It has seen a deterioration in relations with mainland China since coming into power last May.

Lee’s wife previously told Taiwanese media that he went to China in order to arrange medical treatment for his sick mother-in-law in Guangdong province.

Correction 03/29: This article previously stated that Lee has been missing since last Sunday. In fact, he has not been heard from since Sunday March 19. 

Catherine Lai

Catherine is a Canadian journalist and photographer who lived in Beijing for almost two years, working in TV and online media. Aside from Hong Kong and mainland affairs, she is also interested in urban spaces, art and feminism. She holds a BA in Literature and Art History from the University of British Columbia.