China Prosecutes Taiwanese Pro-Independence Activist for Alleged Secession, Latest in Crackdown on Taiwan-Linked Individuals
China has announced that it will prosecute a Taiwanese man, Yang Chih-yuan, for alleged secession, in the latest move against Taiwan-linked individuals on mainland Chinese soil. Yang Chih-yuan is the founder of a pro-independence Taiwanese political party and was detained in China last year. In recent weeks, China has also detained a book publisher and reporters working for a Taiwan broadcaster, prompting criticism from Taiwan for “arbitrary arrests” that are “severely damaging” to human rights.
Yang Chih-yuan, who was based in Taiwan, had travelled to China last year for unknown reasons and was arrested in August in the eastern Chinese city of Wenzhou on suspicion of “separatism.” Chinese authorities have now completed their investigation into him and have put him under formal arrest, according to state media. They have accused him of being “poisoned by thoughts of Taiwan independence secessionism for a long time” and actively working towards formal statehood for Taiwan through his party by planning and implementing events to “seek independence and reject unification,” which has fueled cross-strait tensions. State media also claimed that Mr Yang had advocated for Hong Kong’s independence along with other “separatist” forces.
The issue of “secession” is highly sensitive in China, as it considers Taiwan to be a breakaway province that will eventually be brought under Beijing’s control. Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council, a cabinet-level agency responsible for cross-strait relations, has repeatedly requested Mr Yang’s release since his arrest in August but has not received a positive response from China.
This development comes after the recent disappearance of Taiwanese book publisher Li Yanhe, also known as Fucha, who is critical of Beijing. Friends of Mr. Li reported his alleged arrest, and Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council stated that he was “safe,” but declined to provide further details. Mr Li’s case has drawn comparisons to the 2015 disappearance of five Hong Kong booksellers who were critical of China, as they eventually turned up in the custody of mainland Chinese authorities.
In addition to Mr Li, two Taiwan-based reporters for Taiwan’s EBC News, identified by their last names Huang and Li, were detained by Chinese authorities while filming military exercises in China’s Fujian province. Taiwanese authorities have reminded their residents to assess the risks before visiting China, stating that mainland China is known for random violations of personal safety.
China and Taiwan have longstanding tensions, with China considering Taiwan as part of its territory and insisting on unification with the mainland, even by force if necessary. Taiwan has its own constitution, democratically elected leaders, and armed forces, but is only recognized by a few countries, as most recognize the Chinese government in Beijing. The United States has no official ties with Taiwan but has a law requiring it to provide the island with the means to defend itself.