TAIPEI, TAIWAN — Publishers in Taiwan warned their peers Friday not to visit mainland China and Hong Kong after an editor from the self-ruled island who went missing was detained on suspicion of national security crimes.
Activists and journalists in Taiwan sounded the alarm last month over the disappearance of China-born Li Yanhe, who lives in Taiwan and is the editor-in-chief of Gusa Publishing, which releases political titles.
Beijing then confirmed that he has been placed under investigation for “endangering national security”.
In Taipei, on Friday Taiwan-based editors and activists told a press briefing that Li’s case had cast a “chilling effect” on the island’s literary community and many now feared going to China.
Joshua Wang, a former colleague of Li, said people working in the media, publishing and cultural sectors have been urging those in the industry to stay away.
“It doesn’t just apply to the publishing industry — even people who wrote something critical of China on Facebook are afraid,” he said.
“Don’t even transit through Hong Kong.”
Chinese President Xi Jinping has presided over a crackdown on freedoms during his decade in power, with pressure stepped up on dissidents, rights groups and other critics of the government.
Li’s case echoes the disappearance in 2015 of five Hong Kong booksellers who distributed gossip-filled titles about China’s leaders. The group later resurfaced in Chinese custody.
A dissident poet said last month it was believed Li had been “secretly detained” in Shanghai while visiting family in March.
Independent bookstore owner Chang Cheng said Friday he would not “dare go to China”.
“Are the two sides going to continue like this? This is not okay,” he said.
Li goes by the pen name Fucha. His Gusa company publishes books on the history and politics of China’s ruling Communist Party, including one title on the alleged oppression of Uyghurs in the far-western region of Xinjiang.
China’s broadly worded national security law forbids any “separatist activities” or “subversion”, among other acts deemed threatening to the state.
Chinese authorities in 2017 jailed a Taiwanese democracy activist, Lee Ming-che, for five years for national security crimes. He was released last year.
Cedric Alviani, East Asia bureau director for press freedom watchdog Reporters Without Borders, called for Li’s immediate release.
He criticised what he called a “large-scale crusade against journalism and freedom of information” in China.