China is still investigating the case of a Taiwanese NGO worker detained by Chinese authorities and a separate case of a Chinese man who sought political asylum in Taiwan, a spokesperson has said.

Lee Ming-cheh, a manager at a community college in Taiwan, was last heard from on March 19, after crossing the Macau border into Zhuhai, China. Chinese authorities later confirmed that they were holding him under suspicion of “endangering state security.”

lee ming cheh
Lee Ming-cheh with his wife. Photo: Facebook/Cheng Shiow-jiuan.

The authorities are still investigating Lee, who is suspected of “engaging in activities which endanger state security,” Ma Xiaoguang, spokesperson for China’s top administrative body responsible for cross-strait policy said on Tuesday.

The Taiwan Affairs Office spokesman said that Lee had explained his situation in a letter to his family: “Currently Lee Ming-cheh is in good health and there are no worries about healthcare.”

He reiterated that the rights of Taiwanese people undertaking normal activities in the mainland would be protected according to the law.

See also: Watchdog warns of ‘chilling effect’ as China confirms it is holding missing Taiwanese NGO worker

Lee also volunteered with human rights NGOs and was also known for supporting civil society organisations on the mainland. His disappearance ignited fears that China’s strict new law regulating foreign NGOs in the country may have increased risks for Taiwanese people engaging with mainland civil society.

The CEO of Covenants Watch – a coalition of human rights organisations in Taiwan – advised NGO workers in Taiwan, especially those working on human rights issues, not to visit the mainland for work or travel purposes, in order to avoid further detention.

Chinese asylum seeker

Ma also confirmed that Zhang Xiangzhong, a Chinese tourist who left his tour group in Taiwan to seek political asylum, has arrived back in the coastal Chinese city of Xiamen with his tour group.

Zhang was reportedly an anti-corruption campaigner who has spent time in a mainland prison, according to local media and a human rights group. He previously told US-backed Radio Free Asia that he was motivated to leave the mainland by the wife of Lee Ming-cheh.

Zhang Xiangzhong
Zhang Xiangzhong. Photo: RFA.

Taiwan – which does not grant asylum to Chinese citizens but permits long-term residence for political reasons in special cases – decided that he did not qualify for long-term stay.

The Cross-Strait Tourism Exchange Association, a Chinese body in Taiwan that handles tourism-related affairs, asked Taiwan to send him back, Ma said.

“The mainland-based Association for Tourism Exchange Across the Taiwan Strait required Taiwan’s related authority to send him back in accordance with the cross-Strait tourism agreement.”

He added that Zhang and the leader of his tour group are under investigation.

catherine lai

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.