Taiwan party blames China for 'anxiety and panic' over missing man

TAIPEI (Reuters) - China’s failure to respond on the matter of a Taiwan man missing on the mainland is causing his family “anxiety and panic”, Taiwan’s ruling party said on Saturday, as it called on authorities to protect the rights of Taiwan people.

Concern has risen on self-ruled Taiwan about the whereabouts of Lee Ming-che, a community college worker known for supporting human rights in China who disappeared on Sunday after entering China’s Zhuhai city via the coastal city of Macau.

Taiwan’s Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) said Chinese authorities had repeatedly said they would protect the rights of Taiwan people on the mainland in accordance with law.

“But after six days, there has been no official response by China to requests for consultations about the search by our government and his family,” the party said in its strongest statement yet on Lee’s disappearance.

“This has caused the family anxiety and panic,” Chang Chih-hao, a spokesman for the independence-leaning party said in the statement.

The party called on Chinese authorities to respond promptly to requests for cooperation and “effectively protect human rights and not increase the risk of Taiwanese people traveling to China”, Chang said.

Relations between Beijing and Taiwan have worsened in the past year, largely because Beijing distrusts the DPP, which took power last year and traditionally supports independence for Taiwan.

Beijing regards the democratic island as a breakaway province and it has never renounced the use of force to bring it back under mainland control.

Beijing cut off official communications with Taiwan after President Tsai Ing-wen took office last year. Tsai, also leader of the DPP, says she wants peace but has never conceded that Taiwan is a part of the mainland.

Taiwan’s agencies for dealing with China – its Straits Exchange Foundation and Mainland Affairs Council – have said they have been unable to raise a response from their Chinese counterparts over Lee’s case.

Rights group Amnesty International’s East Asia Director Nicholas Bequelin said Lee’s case raised questions about the safety of people working with civil society in China.

Lee had been supporting organizations and activists in China for years but went to China this time for personal matters related to mother-in-law’s medical condition, Amnesty International said.

“If Lee Ming-che has been detained, then please tell me the charges,” Lee’s wife, Lee Ching-yu, said at a news briefing on Friday organised by the Taiwan Association for Human Rights.

“But please tell her if her husband is alive or dead, where is he,” the rights group said in a statement.

Reporting by J.R. Wu