Taiwan hit out on Tuesday at the airing on Chinese state TV of "confessions" by two of its nationals accused by Beijing of spying for the democratic island.State broadcaster CCTV aired "confessions" from jailed Taiwan democracy activist Lee Meng-chu and Cheng Yu-chin, who was reported to be a former aide to Cho Jung-tai, a former chairman of Taiwan's ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), on Sunday and Monday respectively.Cheng, who was arrested during a trip to China in April 2019, told the camera: "I know what I did was harmful to China, as no country would allow its people to divide the country's territory."Lee, who was detained in October 2019 after arriving from Hong Kong, told the camera: "I have done a lot of bad things in the past, and may have harmed the motherland, for which I am very sorry."Both Lee and Cheng stand accused of engaging in espionage activities against China for the Taiwan government.Taiwanese Premier Su Tseng-chang denied that Taiwan was engaged in subversive or infiltration activities against China."China often cooks up situations and people as part of its smear campaigns, and to create fear, which is not the behavior of a great power," Su said."They think others are doing such things, because that's what they do," he said. "Taiwan is free and democratic, and has been for a long time now, so this level of paranoia on the part of China is really unnecessary."Taipei's Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) hit out at the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) for forcing "confessions" from Taiwan's citizens."It is malignant political manipulation to falsely incriminate a Taiwanese national for conducting espionage activities for Taiwan on a Chinese media outlet," the MAC said in a statement.Meanwhile, Taiwan's foreign ministry said there were a number of factual errors in the CCTV report about Cheng.Former DPP chairman Cho has denied hiring Cheng, saying he doesn't even know him, while the foreign ministry said Cheng had never worked as a professor at Charles University in the Czech Republic as claimed by CCTV.The foreign ministry also said CCTV's report that Cheng had met with one Lee Yun-peng, allegedly a former Taiwan envoy to the Czech Republic in 2004, was inaccurate, and that it had never employed anyone with that name.It said Cheng did live in the Czech Republic from 2005 to 2018 and was considered a supporter of Beijing, helping to promote Sino-Czech ties and backing President Xi Jinping's Belt and Road global infrastructure plan.DPP lawmaker Chao Tien-lin said he doesn't believe any of the stories about Cheng."I have to say to the Chinese government that they are really very childish," Chao said. "Do they have so much internal tension that they need to use innocent and unimportant Taiwan nationals to externalize it, and bully them as a tool to achieve internal stability?""Do they not realize that using innocent people ... will hurt their international image?"'Disappeared' by policeSimon Cheng, a former employee of the British Consul General in Hong Kong, who disappeared during a business trip to mainland China in August 2019 and who was accused of soliciting prostitutes by the Chinese police, said Lee's experience had likely mirrored his own very closely.Cheng, who is now in exile in the U.K., said he was "disappeared" using a very similar process, but the outcomes had been very different."He also went missing in mid-August 2019 ... but he has remained in detention ever since," said Cheng, who said following his release that he was tortured by state security police, who appeared to be holding other Hong Kong detainees in the same detention center in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen.Held in solitary for days, Cheng said he was treated more leniently after 11 days' detention, which he linked to international media reports of his detention, although state security police then tried to recruit him to spy for them.He was eventually released after 15 days' administrative detention after being forced to confess to "soliciting prostitutes" and "betraying the motherland" and being filmed "voluntarily" handing over emails from the British Consulate and Telegram messages from protesters."In Lee's case, the outcome was very different," Cheng said. "Only now does CCTV air the 'confession' video, 14 months after [his detention]."He said his and Lee's detentions were likely linked to a political campaign in mainland China aimed at "anti-China subversives in Hong Kong" both in China and beyond its borders."They looked for pretexts to arrest hundreds of people," Cheng said.Chinese dissident Gong Yujian, who fled to Taiwan after serving prison time for his role in the 1989 pro-democracy movement, said there are no legal checks and balances in China's judicial system, so the authorities can do as they wish with detainees, including pinning espionage charges on random people."China has a very loose legal definition of espionage and secession, which makes it a handy crime to pin on people," Gong told RFA. "It could be that you accidentally took a photo of military vehicles while you were walking along the street.""They can basically charge you with anything."Reported by Chung Kuang-cheng for RFA's Cantonese Service, and by Hsia Hsiao-hwa for the Mandarin Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.
U.S. Under Secretary of State Keith Krach arrived in Taiwan on Thursday, at the start of a three-day trip that will see him attend a memorial service for the island's first directly elected leader.Krach, the highest-ranking U.S. official to visit Taiwan since Washington cut ties with the island in 1979, touched down with his delegation at Taipei's Songshan Airport to be met by his counterpart Harry Tseng.Krach is scheduled to attend a memorial service for former President Lee Teng-hui, who died July 30 at the age of 97, as well as a banquet hosted by President Tsai Ing-wen.Foreign minister Joseph Wu said Krach's visit is highly significant for Taiwan."The U.S. State Department is sending a very high-level undersecretary of the State Department to Taiwan to attend the memorial service of former President Lee," Wu told journalists on Thursday. "The Taiwan government expresses a very high level of welcome."Wu said Krach's attendance at the memorial service "is evidence of the closeness of the relationship between Taiwan and the United States."Yen Chen-sheng, a research fellow at the Institute of International Relations at National Chengchi University, said Krach's visit is a diplomatic breakthrough."No Under Secretary of State has visited Taiwan since the U.S. broke off diplomatic ties," Yen said.He said Krach's visit could also facilitate future purchases of oil and natural gas, and diversify the bilateral trade portfolio.Visit still low-keyChiou Jiun-rong, a former deputy minister of Taiwan's National Development Council, said Krach's visit was still fairly low-key, with considerable uncertainty around the level of formality that would be accorded to bilateral trade and economic talks.But he said Krach could at least pave the way for future bilateral trade talks."If we are defined as a relatively independent political entity at the diplomatic level, then we can talk about a possible bilateral trade agreement or free trade agreement," Chiou said.China said it would make a “necessary response” to Krach's visit, and lodged a complaint with Washington, the foreign ministry said on Thursday.“We urge the U.S. side to fully recognize the extreme sensitivity of the Taiwan issue,” foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin told a regular news briefing in Beijing. “China will make a necessary response depending on how the situation develops.”Krach's visit comes at a time of heightened military tension in the Taiwan Strait, following large-scale exercises by China's People's Liberation Army (PLA) in nearby waters and the encroachment into Taiwan's airspace by PLA aircraft.China’s Zhejiang Maritime Safety Administration reported on the eve of Krach's arrival that the PLA would hold military exercises in the East China Sea from 8.00 a.m. to 6.00 pm on Sept. 17.PLA planes also made an incursion into Taiwan's airspace during the visit last month by U.S. Secretary of Health Alex Azar.'A serious provocation'Taiwan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement last week: "Military maneuvers by China’s government constitute a serious provocation to Taiwan and a grave threat to regional peace and stability.""Taiwan does not seek confrontation, but neither will it back down," the statement said. "The Chinese government is introducing a factor of extreme instability in the region."It called on the international community to play close attention to increasingly aggressive moves by China.The United States plans to sell as many as seven major weapons systems, including mines, cruise missiles, and drones to Taiwan, four people familiar with the discussions said, Reuters reported on Thursday.Washington has been eager to create a military counterbalance to Chinese forces, building on an effort known within the Pentagon as “Fortress Taiwan,” as Beijing’s military makes increasingly aggressive moves in the region, the agency reported.Taiwan’s Defense Ministry declined to comment on the report, which said weapons packages from Lockheed Martin Co LMT.N, Boeing BA.N, and General Atomics are moving their way through the export process, citing three people familiar with the deals.A senior U.S. official told Reuters: “There is no equilibrium today. It is out of balance. And I think that is dangerous.”The Pentagon said in a report to Congress published in September that China has strengthened and modernized its military capabilities in recent years to the point where the PLA is “already ahead of the United States” in some areas.US adjusting its policyFormer lawmaker Lin Yufang, now convener of the National Security group at Taiwan's Institute for National Policy Research, said the U.S. does appear to be adjusting its policy on China.."Of course [this] diplomacy means that the United States is adjusting its China policy," Lin told RFA. "The United States has gradually gotten rid of the line of strategic thinking that it needs mainland China. China's value as a strategic partner has plummeted.""Now, they need to improve ties with Taiwan to counter the rapidly expanding power and influence of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP)," he said.Lin said ongoing arms sales by Washington to Taiwan might suggest the U.S. would be reluctant to become embroiled in any military conflict across the Taiwan Strait, however."This is something that successive U.S. presidents have wanted to avoid since the Vietnam War, so they think that maybe by selling these weapons to the Republic of China, they may be able to deter China from launching a military attack on Taiwan," Lin said."[The idea is that] Taiwan could deploy enough military strength to deal with China without the need for the U.S. military to rush into war," he said.The editor in chief of Military and Aviation News, Shih Hsiao Wei, said the package of arms reported by Reuters suggested Taiwan would gain the ability to hit the source of conventional ballistic missiles targeting the island."Before the PLA launches its short-range ground-to-ground ballistic missiles, just after launch, there is a radio emission to establish communication with command headquarters," Shih said. "Drones can search and detect these fleeting electronic signals.""Then it is possible to attack the source of the missile using a cruise missile," he said.Shih said the reported arms package includes airdropped mines, pointing to the threat of attempts at amphibious landings or blockades by the PLA.Threats from ChinaChina has said Taiwan, a democratic island that has never been ruled by the Chinese Communist Party nor formed part of the People’s Republic of China, must “unify” with China or face a potential invasion by the PLA.President Tsai has repeatedly said that Taiwan's 23 million people have the right to determine their own future, and have no wish to give up their freedom or sovereignty.The island has been officially governed by the 1911 Republic of China since it occupied the island at the end of World War II, ending 50 years of Japanese rule.Earlier this month, it issued a newly designed passport on which "Taiwan" is more prominently displayed in English on the front cover, with the words "Republic of China" relegated to a tiny font size.Reported by Hwang Chun-mei for RFA's Mandarin Service, and by Chung Kuang-cheng for the Cantonese Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.
The family of a Hong Kong teenager detained in mainland China after he tried to flee to the democratic island of Taiwan says he hasn't been allowed to see a lawyer, and that they have had scant assistance from the Hong Kong authorities.Cheng Tsz-Ho, 18, is among 12 Hongkongers aged 16 to 33 being held on suspicion of "illegal immigration" at the Yantian Detention Center in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen, which borders Hong Kong.They were intercepted by the China Coast Guard after they tried to escape by speedboat to the democratic island of Taiwan last month.All 12 are suspected of committing crimes in Hong Kong, according to the city's security bureau, with 10 of them wanted for manufacturing or possessing explosives, arson, rioting, assaulting police officers, or possession of offensive weapons.Cheng didn't tell his family where he was going when he joined the speedboat in a bid to smuggle himself illegally into Taiwan, and the first his family knew of his plight was from a police officer who informed them of his detention, passing on a photocopied certificate of detention "on suspicion of illegally crossing the border" on Aug. 23."I don't think the Hong Kong government has offered any assistance at all," Cheng's sister told RFA in a recent interview. "My father did receive several phone calls from the government, asking if they could send someone to visit my brother.""My father asked what they could do to help, but they couldn't answer that, and they had a pretty casual attitude," she said, adding that the lawyer they tried to hire to represent her brother has been dismissed by the mainland authorities.Detention center staff in Yantian have claimed that they are unable to verify the credentials of several lawyers hired by families in Hong Kong, and have denied them access to their clients.At least four lawyers have been forced to relinquish their instructions in this way, RFA has learned, and not one has been allowed to meet with a client."Political tensions are rising in mainland China and it's getting harder and harder to find a lawyer," Cheng's sister said. "I got a lawyer, but then he quit under political pressure and referred me to a different lawyer."Cheng said she is pursuing every avenue to keep the lawyer she hired, but expects her application to be rejected on the grounds that her brother has already been allocated a lawyer by the authorities.Cheng's family was among several who attended a news conference to hit out at the authorities for their lack of support for the 12 detainees.Chief executive Carrie Lam and her officials have said it is entirely appropriate to allow the mainland authorities to process their cases "according to law," given that many had "absconded" after facing criminal charges linked to the pro-democracy and anti-extradition protests.Concerns over lack of helpBut while the families have called for the return of the detainees, they have also raised concerns over the lack of assistance for those who need medical treatment, as well as the lack of visits by lawyers or relatives.Incommunicado detention is a known risk factor for torture and other forms of mistreatment in detention, and has been linked to several high-profile torture cases in mainland China in recent years."It is normal for the families [of detainees] to appoint the lawyers and it is also our right," Cheng's sister said. "I don't think this counts as interfering with mainland Chinese law enforcement; that is irrelevant.""What worries me the most is that he will be charged with separatist activity [under the new National Security Law for Hong Kong] and won't be allowed to come back here for as long as he lives," she said.Cheng said the normally happy family is distraught and constantly on edge, waiting for news."I fear that there will never come another day when the whole family gathers to eat our meals together," she said."Sometimes I burst out crying when I see my parents," she said. "I don't even know if my brother has enough to eat.""My mom cries a lot and has difficulty sleeping. I often dream about my brother, that he has gotten thin and has been hurt," she said. "He is 18 years old. He usually spends all of his time studying or having fun.""I don't know how he will cope in a detention center," she said. "I am giving more media interviews so more people will know about these cases, and to stop my brother getting 'disappeared'.""Right now, we can only take one day at a time," she said. "If the government won't help us, we will have to support ourselves."Thousands arrested, hundreds prosecutedAuthorities in Hong Kong are bringing hundreds of protest-related prosecutions dating from the anti-extradition and pro-democracy protests that began in June 2019 on a range of charges including unlawful assembly, assault, arson, and rioting.While thousands of people have been arrested since the movement began, a U.S. State Department report warned in March that the prosecutions of activists had infringed on the rights of Hongkongers to peaceful assembly and protest.A Hong Kong court on Thursday convicted a man of "rioting" and common assault in connection with the siege by unarmed protesters of the Hong Kong police headquarters in June 2019.Prosecutions under a draconian national security law imposed on Hong Kong by the ruling Chinese Communist Party on July 1 are also gathering pace.U.S.-based pro-democracy group Freedom House on Thursday said the Hong Kong protest movement was among the recipients of its 2020 Freedom Award."As the Chinese government has heightened repression at home and expanded efforts to export its authoritarianism abroad, Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement — a leaderless, people-led effort —has inspired the world," the group said in a statement announcing the awards."Beijing’s sudden imposition of a repressive new national security law has made these efforts tremendously dangerous," it said. "Yet the people of Hong Kong remain committed to defending their rights for future generations in new and creative ways."Reported by Gigi Lee for RFA's Cantonese Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.
Twelve Hongkongers who fled the city amid an ongoing crackdown on participants in last year's protest movement weren't "democracy activists being oppressed," the city's leader Carrie Lam told journalists on Tuesday.While Lam said her government would provide the detainees and their families with the "needed and feasible" assistance, she said their treatment by the mainland authorities was entirely appropriate."Twelve Hong Kong residents were suspected of illegally entering mainland China ... and so they were detained by mainland Chinese law enforcement," Lam told a regular news briefing. "It is obvious that this case falls within mainland China's jurisdiction."She added, in comments reported by Reuters: "The reason for them leaving Hong Kong seems to be that they were running away from legal responsibility.""I want to set the record straight, because certain local and overseas individuals tried to shift the attention, describing them as democracy activists being oppressed," she said.While the Hong Kong authorities have called on other jurisdictions not to "harbor" people wanted on criminal charges in Hong Kong, they have repeatedly said they won't "interfere" in the cases of the 12 Shenzhen detainees."All 12 are suspected of committing crimes in Hong Kong, according to the city's security bureau, with 10 of them wanted for manufacturing or possessing explosives, arson, rioting, assaulting police officers, or possession of offensive weapons.Hong Kong arrests, prosecutionsAuthorities in the city are bringing hundreds of protest-related prosecutions dating from the anti-extradition and pro-democracy protests that began in June 2019 on a range of charges including unlawful assembly, assault, arson, and rioting.Thousands of people have been arrested since the movement began. A U.S. State Department report warned in March that the prosecutions of activists had infringed on the rights of Hongkongers to peaceful assembly and protest.The 12 Hongkongers are aged 16 to 33, and are being held on suspicion of "illegal immigration" at the Yantian Detention Center in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen, which borders Hong Kong.They were intercepted by the China Coast Guard after they tried to escape by speedboat to the democratic island of Taiwan last month.Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying, who referred to the 12 on Twitter as "elements attempting to separate Hong Kong from China," said on Tuesday that only one is suspected of "colluding with foreign powers" under a draconian national security law imposed by the ruling Chinese Communist Party on Hong Kong from July 1.The family members of six of the detainees held a press conference on Saturday, calling on the Hong Kong authorities to bring them back to the city as soon as possible.Growing concernsConcerns are growing over the lack of access to lawyers hired by their families and to adequate medical care.Pro-democracy lawmaker James To accused Lam's administration of operating a "double standard" when it came to Hong Kong detainees overseas."If the Hong Kong government believes that these 12 people have broken Hong Kong laws, shouldn't they be requesting that mainland China return them?" To said."[They] have already said that the five Hongkongers held in Taiwan [for illegal immigration] should be returned."He called on the Hong Kong authorities to do more to support the 12 detainees."The family members would like the Hong Kong government to show more concern, and to protect their rights and interests," To said.Reported by Gigi Lee for RFA's Cantonese Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.
Twelve activists detained in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen after they tried to flee Hong Kong in a speedboat have been accused of "separatism" by a foreign ministry spokeswoman in Beijing."The 12 people were arrested for illegally crossing the border," Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said via Twitter."They are not democratic activists, but elements attempting to separate #HongKong from China," Hua wrote in response to a tweet from U.S. State Department spokesman Morgan Ortagus, who condemned the detention of the 12 Hongkongers."Legitimate governments do not need to wall their countries in and prevent their citizens from leaving," Ortagus had tweeted."The arrest of 12 Hong Kong democracy activists is another sad example of the deterioration of human rights in Hong Kong," he wrote on Saturday.The family members of six of the detainees held a press conference on Saturday, calling on the Hong Kong authorities to bring them back to the city as soon as possible.Concerns are growing over the lack of access to lawyers hired by their families and to adequate medical care in Shenzhen's Yantian Detention Center.The 12 Hongkongers are aged 16 to 33, and were held on suspicion of "illegal immigration" after they tried to escape by speedboat to the democratic island of Taiwan last month.Hong Kong activist Andy Li – who was arrested and released on bail earlier this month by Hong Kong for alleged national security law violations – was among them, sources told RFA at the time.The Shenzhen police department confirmed for the first time on Sunday that 12 Hong Kong citizens were under criminal detention on suspicion of illegally crossing the border, and that investigations are ongoing."Police will protect the legitimate rights and interests of criminal suspects in accordance with law," the department said via its official social media account on Weibo.Lawyer turned awayBut defense lawyer Lu Siwei, who was recently hired by the family of one of the detainees, told RFA he had been turned away from the detention center on several occasions after he went to request a meeting with his client.The mother of one detainee, Tang Kai-yin, said she didn't know whether he was alive or dead.Tang's brother said he was concerned about his brother's health in detention.Hong Kong's Immigration Department has since said the 12 are in good health, and they have got lawyers to represent them.But relatives of the detainees told reporters at the weekend that they had been given no information on the charges against their loved ones, and said assistance offered by the Hong Kong authorities was inadequate.Hong Kong Secretary for Security John Lee declined to intervene on behalf of the 12 detained in Shenzhen, saying only that the Hong Kong authorities will keep track of their case."People should respect the local law wherever they are and take responsibility for their own actions, including criminal liability," Lee said."Governments respect different jurisdictions operating according to their own laws," he said.Bargaining chipsCouncil Front lawmaker Chu Hoi-dick said the 12 could now be used as bargaining chips by the ruling Chinese Communist Party."The moment family-appointed lawyers were denied to see some of the detainees, it could be expected that the Chinese Communist Party has designated the 12 people as highly sensitive cases," government broadcaster RTHK quoted Chu as saying in a statement.Meanwhile, Taiwan's Central News Agency (CNA) quoted a source on Sunday as confirming reports that five Hongkongers who attempted to reach the island by boat have been detained there.Taiwan journalist Edd Jhong, who says he helped them get to Taiwan, has claimed that the former anti-government protesters had not been allowed to contact their families or lawyers.CNA's source on Sunday confirmed the detentions, denied they were under "house arrest," but gave no timeline for their release.It said five had been granted access to lawyers, and were not being held incommunicado.Hong Kong security chief John Lee said the city's government had received no information on the five.'Taiwan must be cautious'Taiwan Protestant pastor Hwang Chun-sheng, who has helped Hongkongers fleeing to Taiwan following a city-wide crackdown on the protest movement that has intensified under a draconian national security law since July 1, said Taiwan has helped many people from Hong Kong."But Taiwan has to be very cautious, because China and the U.S. are in a state of quasi-war," Hwang told RFA. "People who know about these things can't talk too much about them."He said all five Hongkongers had been in touch with their families via officials, to let them know they are safe.Yang Sen-hong, president of the Taiwan Association for China Human Rights, said it is unclear who the five Hongkongers are.He called on the Taiwanese government to pass a refugee law setting out how asylum-seekers are to be treated."Only then will we have a legal framework to avoid the issue of illegal immigration," Yang said. "Otherwise, people who enter Taiwan will be dealt with under current law [as illegal immigrants]."Reported by Hwang Chun-mei for RFA's Mandarin Service, and by the Cantonese Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.