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Li Yan-he, a book publisher based in Taiwan, went missing after a trip to China


China says it has detained a book publisher based in Taiwan. Li Yan-he, who is a citizen of Taiwan but was born in China, went missing after visiting his relatives in China last month. Li's friends say he was detained for publishing politically sensitive books, many of which are banned in China. NPR's Emily Feng looks into his case.

EMILY FENG, BYLINE: Li Yan-he is more well-known as Fu Cha his pen name. He was born in China's northeast province of Liaoning but moved to Taiwan in 2009 and recently became a Taiwanese citizen.

JOSHUA WONG: (Non-English language spoken).

FENG: Joshua Wong (ph) is a former editor at Gusa Publishing, where Fu Cha was the top editor. And he shows me some of the publishing house's recent books on everything from Joe Biden to revisionist Qing Dynasty history.

WONG: (Through interpreter) He likes to explore Chinese history from the perspective of the minority. And this likely did not make China's ruling Communist Party happy.

FENG: Fu Cha came to Taiwan in part because the Asian island is a hub for Chinese-language culture outside the control of China's ruling Communist Party.

WONG: (Through interpreter) Fu Cha really likes to test the limits. He publishes book projects that, frankly, I didn't think a publishing house could take on. But he was willing to shoulder the financial risk.

FENG: Chinese authorities confirmed Wednesday that Fu Cha was detained in China in March and is being investigated for activities that endangered national security. China's Public Security Bureau did not respond to NPR's request for comment on his detention. Bei Ling, a Chinese-born poet and publisher who now lives in exile in Taiwan, first revealed Fu Cha's disappearance in Shanghai on his social media last week.

BEI LING: (Through interpreter) He was there to see his mother and sweep the tomb of his father, who had just died. Most pressing, however, he had to go back to China to renounce his Chinese nationality.

FENG: Because Fu Cha recently became a Taiwanese citizen. Meanwhile, his detention has rocked the vibrant publishing industry in Taiwan. Gusa Publishing, where Fu Cha is the founding editor, is well-known across the Chinese-speaking world for translating a diverse range of books from Japanese, Chinese and English-language authors.

LOUISA LIM: Oh, he's a very memorable person. He's very passionate about publishing. And he likes to talk a lot.

FENG: Among those authors Fu Cha published in Chinese was former NPR reporter Louisa Lim, who is now a senior lecturer in journalism at the University of Melbourne in Australia.

LIM: You know, the Communist Party is afraid of writers. It's afraid of ideas. And it's afraid of the power of ideas.

FENG: And given Fu Cha dared to publish books other publishers might shy away from...

LIM: I think it is really sending a message, you know, to other publishers as well, you know, watch out what you do.

FENG: Taiwan says it is now working to try to secure his release. But with cross-strait relations increasingly fraught, many here fear Fu Cha's ordeal has just begun.

Emily Feng, NPR News, Taipei.

(SOUNDBITE OF LYCORISCORIS' "FLIGHT") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Emily Feng is NPR's Beijing correspondent.