April 26, 2017 / 3:44 AM / 6 months ago

China says detained Taiwan activist in good health

BEIJING (Reuters) - The Chinese government said on Wednesday that a Taiwan rights activist detained on suspicion of endangering national security was in good health, and had reassured his family in a letter.

The detention has put a strain on ties between Taiwan and China, which have cooled since Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen took power last year, because she refuses to concede that the self-ruled island is part of China.

The activist, Li Ming-che, is a community college worker known for supporting human rights. He went missing in China, which views neighbouring Taiwan as a renegade province, on March 19, and China later confirmed his detention.

Li’s case is still being investigated and processed, Ma Xiaoguang, spokesman for China’s Taiwan Affairs Office, told a regular news briefing.

“At present, Li Ming-che’s health is good, and there are no concerns about medical care. He has clearly explained the relevant situation to his family in a letter,” Ma said.

Li’s family and the Taiwan government have been frustrated at not being told where Li is being held, and Ma did not answer when asked his location or give further details of the charges Li could face.

Li’s wife was barred from travelling to China this month after saying she received the letter through unofficial channels and that she could not verify the letter was from her husband.

A potential diplomatic confrontation between China and Taiwan was averted last week, after a Chinese activist who had reportedly intended to seek asylum in Taiwan flew back home.

Taiwan immigration officials had apprehended and questioned Zhang Xiangzhong after he left his tour group, and authorities were deciding whether to deport him or risk fraying relations with Beijing by granting him sanctuary as a political refugee.

Ma confirmed that Zhang had arrived back in China, and that authorities were investigating the case, but he gave no details.

China regards Taiwan as a wayward province and it has never renounced the use of force to bring it back under its control, while proudly democratic Taiwan has shown no interest in being run by Communist Party rulers in Beijing.

Defeated Nationalist forces fled to Taiwan in 1949 after losing a civil war with the Communists, but since a thaw began in the 1980s, cross-Strait investment has flourished.

Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Clarence Fernandez

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