BEIJING (Reuters) - The Chinese government said on Friday that a Taiwan rights activist has been arrested on suspicion of subversion and has confessed to harming state security, in a case which has strained ties between China and self-ruled Taiwan.
Relations 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 wayward province, on March 19, and China later confirmed his detention.
In a short statement carried by the official Xinhua news agency, China’s Taiwan Affairs Office said that Li had been formally arrested by state security authorities in the southern province of Hunan on suspicion of subversion of state power.
State security authorities had ascertained that since 2012, Li had entered China multiple times, the government said.
While in China, he had “colluded with relevant people in the mainland, formulated action programmes, established illegal organisations and plotted and enacted activities to subvert the power of our authorities”, it added, without giving details.
“After being interrogated, Li Ming-che confessed to engaging in activities to harm our state security, and the judicial authorities will handle the case in accordance with the law.”
It is not clear if Li has been allowed to retain a lawyer. China’s Ministry of State Security has no publicly listed contact details or website.
In Taiwan, Li’s wife, Li Ching-yu, was looking at the report, family friend Cheng Hsiu-chuan said.
She has said from the beginning that she rejected the allegations made by Chinese authorities, Cheng, head of the community college where Li worked, told Reuters.
Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council, which handles relations with China, could not immediately comment, but said it was looking into the report.
Li’s family and the Taiwan government have previously expressed frustration at not being told where Li was being held.
Li’s wife was barred from travelling to China last month.
China has never renounced the use of force to bring Taiwan 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.
Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Additional reporting by J.R. Wu in Taipei; Editing by Alison Williams