Campaigners Sunday demanded Beijing release a Taiwanese rights activist ahead of a high profile meeting between China’s President Xi Jinping and Donald Trump.
China confirmed this week that NGO worker Lee Ming-cheh is under investigation for “endangering national security”, without revealing details of where he is being held.
Prominent activists from Taiwan and Hong Kong are taking advantage of the high-level presidential meeting to raise awareness over the arrest, which they described as “brutal”.
Xi will meet President Trump on April 6 and 7 at the US leader’s Florida golf resort, the first face-to-face meeting between the heads of the world’s two most powerful nations.
Just weeks ago the summit seemed a distant possibility after Trump infuriated Beijing with suggestions he might break from the One China Policy, which nominally acknowledges the Asian giant’s claims over Taiwan without recognising them.
Lee, 42, was last heard from on March 19 after he entered the southeastern Chinese city of Zhuhai from the semi-autonomous enclave of Macau.
Taiwan has blasted China for the lack of explanation over his whereabouts, describing his disappearance as “deeply regrettable”.
“We believe that the… events clearly demonstrate the brutality and untrustworthiness of the Chinese legal system, the activists said in a statement issued Sunday.
“We must solemnly point out that this unlawful detention by the Chinese Communist Party is not only a violation of the human rights of Taiwan citizens, but also a direct threat to all ‘foreign NGO workers’ who are currently active in China,” the statement added.
The activists also demanded China disclose Lee’s whereabouts, give guarantees that he would not be tortured and that visits from family and lawyers would be allowed.
Lee’s wife had said she would go to Beijing to “rescue” her husband in a case that has worsened cross-strait relations, which have deteriorated since China-sceptic president Tsai Ing-wen won the leadership last year.
China regards self-ruling Taiwan as part of its own territory awaiting reunification under Beijing’s rule.
Meanwhile there have been growing concerns that Beijing is increasing its influence in semi-autonomous Hong Kong, which is ruled under a “one country, two systems” deal enshrined in the July 1997 handover agreement, guaranteeing its freedoms and way of life for 50 years.
A Hong Kong activist was jailed over massive 2014 anti-Beijing rallies last week while nine more campaigners faced public nuisance charges, just a day after a pro-China leader Carrie Lam was chosen as the city’s new leader.