Taiwan Publisher Li Yanhe’s Detention Prompts Alarm

In Feature Articles by Porter Anderson

Beijing’s Taiwan Affairs Office confirms that Gusa Publishing’s Li Yanhe (Fu Cha) is detained for ‘endangering national security.’

Li Yanhe is also known by his pen name, Fu Cha. Image: Facebook

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

Datt: ‘Publishing Is Not a Crime’
As Amy Chang Chien is reporting today (April 26) for The New York Times, a publisher whose press is based in Taiwan “has been detained for suspected violations of security laws, Chinese authorities confirmed on Wednesday, fanning concerns in Taiwan that Beijing is sending a warning to the island’s vibrant publishing sector.”

Li reportedly is a Chinese citizen who has lived in Taiwan since 2009, writing as Fu Cha and managing his company, Gusa Publishing—a press known for being critical of the Chinese Communist Party.

Joel Guinto and Kelly Ng at BBC News report that China has confirmed it’s investigating Li for “endangering national security.” Guinto and Ng go on to point out, “Li’s case has been widely compared with the disappearance of five Hong Kong booksellers in 2015 from a shop known for selling works critical of China.”

Angeli Datt

At PEN America, Angeli Datt, the agency’s lead on China research and advocacy, has issued a statement today to the news media, saying ‘Publishing is not a crime and Li Yanhe should be released immediately and unconditionally.

“His detention is an attack on free expression and another example of the Chinese government’s belligerence towards anyone who stands for the free and open exchange of ideas.

“Li Yanhe had published books by Chinese dissidents and on subjects that otherwise would have been banned by Beijing. He has given Chinese-language readers access to different ideas and perspectives, including translations of Western authors.

“His detention is an outrageous attempt to muzzle the work of Gusa Publishing House as the Chinese Communist Party continues to try and silence free expression outside its border.”

Chiu: ‘Long-Arm Jurisdiction’

On Thursday (April 20), Radio Free Asia‘s Jojo Man (for the Cantonese feed) and Hsia Hsiao-hwa (for the Mandarin feed) reported rumors of a detention when Li seemed to go quiet, days after he’d traveled to mainland China to visit family.

The Radio Free Asia report says that Li is married to a Taiwanese spouse and initially in Taiwan worked with the Book Republic publishing group, founding the Eight Banners imprint there. “The Taiwan-based Hong Kong news site Photon News,” Jojo and Hsia write, “said recent titles offering independent views of Tibetan and Mongolian history could have sparked Beijing’s ire, a view shared by Book Republic’s founder and president Kuo Chung-hsing.”

This afternoon, the Committee to Protect Journalists has released a writeup in which Li’s detention is said to date back to March in Shanghai, information echoed today in a news conference led by Beijing’s Taiwan Affairs Office. Li, the organization says, is not only a publisher but also a radio host with Radio Taiwan International.

CNN’s article, from Nectar Gan and Wayne Chang, says, “Taiwan’s Minister of Mainland Affairs Council Chiu Tai-san said Wednesday the arrest of Yang and the detention of Li showed that ‘China is exercising its long-arm jurisdiction to Taiwan not only to threaten but also to suppress Taiwan.'”

Gan and Chang also carry a report from an essayist published by Li, saying that Li has obtained Taiwan citizenship and returned to Shanghai last month, “seeking to renounce his Chinese citizenship as required by Taiwan’s immigration law.”

As Publishing Perspectives reported from Taipei in February, Taiwan’s publishing industry and literary community remain integral elements of the island’s cultural and civic life, the Taipei International Book Exhibition having emerged from pandemic-pressured closures thsiswinter to welcome 505,000 attendees, followed by a robust appearance at Bologna Children’s Book Fair through the support and services of TAICCA, the Taiwan Creative Content Agency.

Einarsson: ‘We Will Continue To Monitor His Case’

The news of Li Yanhe’s detention in China is being watched carefully by the  International Publishers Association‘s (IPA) Freedom to Publish committee, chaired by Kristenn Einarsson and directed by James Taylor. That program is to name its 2023 Prix Voltaire laureate at the World Expression Forum (WEXFO)—which is helmed by Einarsson—in Lillehammer on May 22.

In a statement, the IPA mentions that Li’s Gusa Press has published books including Red Penetration: The Truth About Chinese Media’s Global Expansion and Blind Lawyer: A Human Rights Fighter Looking for Light in Dark China.

Kristenn Einarsson

Einarsson says, “IPA is concerned at the detention of Li Yanhe, particularly if it relates to books he has published. We will continue to monitor his case.”

The 2018 Prix Voltaire was given to the Chinese-born naturalized Swedish publisher and bookseller Gui Minhai, who remains imprisoned on a 10-year sentence.

More coverage from Publishing Perspectives on the Taiwan market is here, more on China is here, more on the case of Gui Minhai is here, and more on IPA’s Prix Voltaire is here.

Publishing Perspectives is the International Publishers Association’s world media partner.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson was for more than a decade a senior producer and anchor with CNN.com, CNN International, and CNN USA. As an arts critic (Fellow, National Critics Institute), he was with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.