China holding Taiwanese man said to have photographed police

FILE - In this June 20, 2019, file photo released by Pingtung County Fangliao Township Office, Lee Meng-chu accepts a certificate for his adviser role during a ceremony in Pingtung County, Southern Taiwan. China has confirmed it is holding the TaiwanPlayThe Associated Press
WATCH News headlines today: Sept. 20, 2019

China confirmed Wednesday that it was detaining a Taiwanese man who reportedly sent back photos of Chinese paramilitary police massing equipment near the Hong Kong border last month.

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Lee Meng-chu is under investigation on suspicion of engaging in criminal activity harmful to national security, said Ma Xiaoguang, the spokesman for Beijing's Taiwan Affairs Office. He did not provide further details.

Lee went missing on Aug. 20 after he sent photos of the paramilitary police to the mayor of Fangliao, a small fishing community in southern Taiwan. The mayor, Archer Chen, said he tried to call Lee later in the day but couldn't get through.

Drills in Shenzhen by the People's Armed Police fueled speculation that China might use its paramilitary force to crush pro-democracy demonstrations in Hong Kong, a semiautonomous Chinese territory. Shenzhen lies just over Hong Kong's border with mainland China.

Taiwan's official Central News Agency has reported that Lee apparently sent photos to his brother, too.

Taiwan's government called on China to explain the details of Lee's case and ensure his legal rights.

"It has been 22 days since the disappearance of Mr. Lee when he entered Shenzhen," Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Committee said in a statement.

"Our government departments have made enquires three times to the relevant departments of mainland China, but so far they haven't informed us or his family," it said.

The statement asked China to explain where and for how long Lee is being detained and to arrange a mainland visit for his family as soon as possible.

Lee was a volunteer consultant for Fangliao township to help promote its international affairs and often traveled to the mainland, Chen said.