What journalists can do in the case of Lee Ming-che

Here is an article that Yu-Jie Chen and I wrote on China’s secret detention since March 19 of Taiwan rights and democracy advocate Mr. Lee Ming-che. We argue that China’s handling of the case violates Mr. Lee’s human rights and a cross-strait agreement Beijing and Taipei signed in 2009. This incident has dealt a serious blow to the reliability and legitimacy of cross-strait institutions, which is not in Beijing’s interest.

(Voice of America—Wikimedia Commons)

(Voice of America—Wikimedia Commons)

Where is Lee? Journalists, especially Taiwanese journalists, should keep asking questions about his fate, including in the press conferences of China’s Taiwan Affairs Office and the Foreign Ministry. In particular, we still don’t know whether he is detained under “residential surveillance at a designated place” (指定監視居住) or normal criminal detention (刑事拘留) (although as we pointed out in the article, the charge of “endangering national security” suggests that Chinese police may have invoked the former procedure).

If it’s criminal detention, the police can hold the suspect as long as 30 days, by which time they have to ask the approval of the procuratorate to formally arrest (逮捕) the suspect in order to keep him in custody. The prosecutors have up to 7 days to make their decision. The 37-day mark for Lee’s detention is April 25 (counting from March 19). If there is any formal arrest in Lee’s case, it should be made by April 25. At that point journalists should ask whether a formal arrest has been approved. If it has, where is Lee being held? Why? Can he see a lawyer? Will Taiwan officials have access to him?

If there is no formal arrest, Chinese spokesmen should be asked whether Lee is under “residential surveillance,” according to which the suspect can be held for up to six months in an undisclosed place (i.e., without the protections of a formal detention center) and has no access to the outside. Torture is commonplace in such circumstances.

“He said, Xi said”: the press conferences after the Xi-Ma meeting

Photo by the Office of the President of Taiwan

Photo by the Office of the President of Taiwan

by Jerome Cohen

The much-anticipated meeting between China’s President Xi Jinping and Taiwan’s President Ma Ying-jeou took place today. Here are the statements from Xi Jinping and Ma Ying-jeou and the subsequent remarks of Tsai Ing-wen, Taiwan’s political opposition party’s leader and presidential candidate.

We will see more analysis by political commentators, especially those on Taiwan from the opposing KMT and the DPP camps. But one thing we can all agree upon is that the press conference of Zhang Zhijun, the head of China’s Taiwan Affairs Office, gave the world a new example of “He said, Xi said.”

Seriously, I think Ma’s decision to do his own press conference rather than leave it to the very able Andrew Hsia, the head of Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Office, which would have comported with Taiwan’s other efforts to demonstrate equality with the PRC, was a wise one, demonstrating how democratic leaders expose their conduct to the public. Xi’s consistent reluctance to face questions and the pathetic three questions staged for Zhang, together with the shielding of the Chinese people from Ma’s initial speech and then his press conference, undoubtedly left a vivid impression on many Chinese.