China to prosecute Taiwanese politician for ‘longtime secessionism’

Yang Chih-yuan formally arrested more than eight months after he was detained in China

Alisha Rahaman Sarkar
Tuesday 25 April 2023 12:55 BST
Soldiers hoist the flag of Taiwan in Taipei
Soldiers hoist the flag of Taiwan in Taipei (EPA)

Chinese authorities have formally arrested a Taiwanese politician on the charge of "secession" amid rising tensions between Beijing and Taipei.

Yang Chih-yuan, who served as the vice chairman of the now-defunct pro-democracy Taiwanese National Party, was detained in China's Zhejiang province in August last year following former US House speaker Nancy Pelosi's visit to Taipei.

China’s Supreme People’s Procuratorate on Tuesday announced that prosecutors in Wenzhou approved the arrest of the 33-year-old activist on suspicion of "engaging in separatist activities and endangering national security".

Mr Yang, who was born in Taichung in central Taiwan, is a long-time advocate of "Taiwan independence", and colluded with others to establish an illegal organisation with the aim of "pushing for Taiwan to become a sovereign state and join the United Nations", Xinhua news agency reported.

Because of those actions, Mr Yang was suspected of allegedly committing secession and inciting the crime of secession.

Beijing maintains Taiwan is part of its national territory and has been aggressively trying to push for the unification of the island with the mainland through military harassment.

The Xi Jinping government has intensified its crackdown on dissenters, pro-democracy activists and journalists for endangering “national security”.

Taiwan said it had repeatedly reached out to mainland authorities about Mr Yang’s detention but had not received a direct response.

“The government reiterates that Yang is innocent and calls on the Chinese Communist Party to release Yang and allow him to return to Taiwan as soon as possible,” Taiwan’s mainland affairs council said in a statement to CNN.

Mr Yang has been an active pro-democracy campaigner for over a decade and unsuccessfully contested a seat in the Taiwan legislature.

He had previously been a member of the Democratic Progressive Party, and Taiwan Action Party Alliance, which advocated for a “One Country on Each Side” policy.

The announcement of his formal arrest comes amid mounting concerns for a Taiwan-based book publisher believed to have been detained in China. Li Yanhe, known by the pen-name Fucha, reportedly travelled to Shanghai in March to visit his relatives but has been untraceable since last Thursday.

The Taiwanese government has said it was monitoring the situation but reminded Taiwan citizens to evaluate the risks before traveling to the mainland.

“When the epidemic on both sides of the strait is gradually slowing down and people on both sides are hoping to resume normal exchanges, the mainland arbitrarily arrested Taiwanese people, seriously harming the rights and interests of our people and creating fear,” Taiwan’s mainland affairs council told CNN.

“This is bound to be detrimental to the exchanges and interactions across the strait.”

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