After long years of confusion under the United States imposed “strategic ambiguity” the unresolved international status of Taiwan is in the news. Most of the talk is about missiles and trade bans in the dispute between the People’s Republic of China and the exiled Republic of China which governs Taiwan as a World War II occupation government which never left.
The battle for Taiwan between the two Chinas has moved into new territory with the August 3 arrest in Wenzhou, in the province of Zhejiang, of Yang Chih-yuan, an outspoken advocate for Taiwanese independence. The arrest is in apparent retaliation for the recent visit to Taiwan of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.
Yang traveled to China in January to pursue business and had stepped away from his Taiwan independence activism. However, the State Security Bureau was watching Yang. A Chinese media statement said Yang “has long engaged in Taiwan independence separatist activities and is suspected of endangering national security.”
In the wake of Yang’s detention, the Mainland Affairs Council in Taiwan has urged Taiwanese residents to assess the risks of visiting China given the potential risks to their personal freedom and security. The arrest was announced on state-run China Central Television, although there was no official notification as required by the Cross-Strait Joint Crime-Fighting and Judicial Mutual Assistance Agreement.
China’s Taiwan Affairs Office spokesman Ma Xiaoguang told a news conference that “die-hard Taiwanese separatists cannot escape severe punishment under national law.”
Yang was accused of being involved in the establishment of an “illegal organization with the goal of pushing for Taiwan to become a sovereign, independent nation, with the eventual aim of it joining the UN, among other separatist crimes.”
Yang was previously a member of the Taiwan Action Party Alliance — a pro-independence party founded by former president Chen Shui-bian that dissolved in 2020.
Yang was also active in the 2008 Wild Strawberries movement and had previously assisted a Chinese dissident seeking asylum in Taiwan. Ironically, although Yang has been arrested by the People’s Republic of China, most of his activism has been against rival Republic of China in-exile. Yang’s plight puts a tight focus on what the District of Columbia U. S. Court of Appeals has called Taiwan’s “political purgatory.”
Yang has not been permitted any visitors and is being held without bail.