Yueyang People’s Intermediate Court sentenced Taiwanese human rights activist Lee Ming-cheh to five years in jail for state subversion today. Lee was first abducted by Chinese authorities when crossing the border from Macao in March. The court held a “trial” in September.
Lee Ching-yu, Lee’s wife and fellow activist, attended the sentencing with two Straits Exchange Foundation staff and is currently confined to her hotel. Former MP Wang Li-ping (DPP) also traveled with the group but was denied entry to China after landing in Yueyang. After the sentencing, Lee stated he would not appeal the sentence and motioned that he was bugged when briefly meeting his wife.
Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council stated the sentence to be unacceptable and demanded Lee to be released immediately, although the demand would likely fall on deaf ears due to China cutting off official communication with Taiwan.
After Taiwanese human rights activist Lee Ming-cheh was abducted when crossing into China almost six months ago, his wife Lee Ching-yu received a phone call from a Zhang Zhongwei on September 6. Zhang claimed to be Lee’s attorney and asked Lee’s wife to travel to Yueyang, Hunan, China, where Lee would be due to attend trial. Lee’s wife departed for China on September 10 and had to sit through what could only be described as a farce of a trial the next day.
During the trial, Lee “confessed” to charges of “subverting state power” through posting articles on Chinese social media platforms QQ, Weibo, and WeChat with the intent to “maliciously discredit” the Community Party of China and promote democracy. He also added that he received “well-rounded education” during his detention and had come to recognize the progress China made in development. He further expressed his appreciation in China’s “civilized justice system”. The court uploaded Lee’s trial in edited segments to its Weibo account. The court will sentence Lee at a later date.
We may never know what actually led to Lee’s “confession” until and if he is released back to Taiwan. Most people who voted in Taiwan’s election or anyone who has voiced support for an independent Taiwan are guilty of those “charges” Lee “confessed” to. But one thing has never been clearer: China will prosecute and hunt down whoever it wants, under whatever reasons it deems necessary, but it is definitely not convincing any sane Taiwanese that the Communist Party of China, its one-party authoritarian rule, and unification are desirable in Taiwan’s future.
Update (4/10): Lee Ching-yu was denied boarding today at Taoyuan International Airport after the airlines received notification from the Chinese public security ministry that her Mainland Travel Permit has been cancelled.
Taiwanese human rights activist Lee Ming-cheh was reported missing on March 19 after entering the southern Chinese city of Zhuhai from Macau by land. His wife was notified after he failed to meet a friend for a meeting the same day. China’s Taiwan Affairs Office confirmed on March 29 that Lee has been detained and is under investigation on suspicion of harming national security. Chinese authorities have so far refused to release where Lee is being held and when he is expected to be released.
Lee, 42, works at Wenshan Community College in Taipei and frequently travels to China. He has extensive contacts with NGO workers in China and is critical of how human rights lawyers are being treated in China. Lee’s wife, Lee Ching-yu, is planning on traveling to Beijing on April 10 to seek her husband’s release from relevant authorities.