Sat, Sep 09, 2017 - Page 8 News List

EDITORIAL: Worrying the whole world

News that Lee Ming-che (李明哲) is soon to go on trial in China must have come as a relief to his wife, Lee Ching-yu (李凈瑜), and family members, even though a typical Chinese show trial is all that can be expected.

For everyone else, it was simply another reminder of the Chinese authorities’ contempt for the rule of law and legal accords, even when the laws they are breaking are their own.

Lee Ching-yu’s announcement on Wednesday that she had been called and told that her husband was to be put on trial in Hunan Province and that she would go to China was followed the next day by the Mainland Affairs Council saying it had hired a lawyer for her and hoped to send the lawyer and Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) personnel with her.

Let us hope they are able to go; even the nominal protection that an SEF delegation could accord Lee Ching-yu would be reassuring given Beijing’s long track record of using relatives to coerce detainees and prisoners.

Of course, there was immediate speculation in the Chinese-language media in Taiwan that the announcement of a trial — no actual date has been mentioned — was somehow connected to this week’s government shake-up in Taipei, triggered by the resignation of former premier Lin Chuan (林全) and his replacement by William Lai (賴清德).

Council Deputy Minister Chiu Chui-cheng (邱垂正) refused to comment on Thursday when asked about the speculation, saying that the council has repeatedly urged China to release Lee Ming-che as expeditiously as possible, and would not “comment on the so-called correlation in the timing of recent events.”

That is too bad, because Chiu passed up a good opportunity to tell reporters: “Don’t be ridiculous.”

It is unlikely that the internal machinations of Taiwanese politics had much to do with Beijing’s scheduling of a trial, as the Chinese Communist Party leadership and bureaucrats have consistently shown themselves to be tone-deaf when it comes to understanding Taiwan.

It is far more likely that the timing is due to Lee Ching-yu’s plan to travel to Geneva, Switzerland, for next week’s session of the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances, which begins on Monday.

The Working Group is part of the UN Commission on Human Rights and its primary task is “to assist families in determining the fate or whereabouts of their family members who have disappeared.”

The group meets three times a year, and the first three days of each session are devoted to meetings with family members of the missing people, representatives of non-governmental organizations and governments.

Lee Ching-yu’s testimony before a US Congressional-Executive Commission on China hearing in Washington in May led the commission in June to list Lee Ming-che as a political prisoner held by China. Her speaking to the UN Working Group would have brought even more international attention to Beijing’s illegal detention of Lee Ming-che — and Beijing’s increasing overreach when it comes to abducting people it wants to put on trial, such as the Taiwanese telecom fraud suspects who have been deported from third countries to face trial in China or businessmen taken from Hong Kong.

It took more than two months before Beijing admitted that it had detained the Wenshan Community College staffer on March 19 and had arrested him on suspicion of “subversion of state power.”

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