Contempt for Basic Freedom

Authorities on Taiwan have arrested and are holding without bail Lee Ya-ping, the publisher of a Chinese-language newspaper, the International Daily News, that is based in Monterey Park. The charge against Lee is violation of Taiwan’s anti-sedition law. Should she be convicted by the military court in charge of her case, Lee could face the death penalty. The charge? That she favors a dialogue between the Communist regime in China and the Nationalist regime on Taiwan and has published interviews with officials of the Peking government, thereby promoting “defeatism” and spreading anti-government propaganda.

The publication of articles and commentary that has so aroused Taiwan officials took place in the United States, where most of the paper’s 58,000 subscribers live. The International Daily News is banned on Taiwan, though apparently some copies slip onto the island--including the 1982 edition carrying the text of an interview that Lee conducted with China’s ambassador to Washington. Lee is a Taiwan citizen who returned to the island late last year for a visit. It was not until many months after her return, and after she unsuccessfully sought the nomination of the Nationalist Party for a local elective office, that she was arrested.

The arrest and threatened prosecution of Lee is outrageous on its face, a brute-force reaction by fearful officials to what in the United States is the simple exercise of a fundamental right. The International Daily News is published in the United States, where its freedom is assured by law. That it may, against the wishes of local authorities, have found readers on Taiwan is irrelevant. In persecuting Lee, Taiwan officials are demonstrating the same harsh contempt for basic freedom that characterizes Communist and other totalitarian regimes. Lee publishes her paper under the protection of American law. And under that law she has certainly committed no crime.