Wed, Apr 12, 2017 - Page 1 News List

‘Passive’ Lee Ming-che response denied

UPPING THE PRESSURE:The Presidential Office said it had instructed government agencies to spare no efforts to safeguard the advocate’s rights and his safety

By Stacy Hsu  /  Staff reporter

Mainland Affairs Council Minister Katharine Chang, center, comments on the case of human rights advocate Lee Ming-che, who has been detained in China, at an international news conference in Taipei yesterday.

Photo: Fang Pin-chao, Taipei Times

The Mainland Affairs Council yesterday stepped up the pressure on Beijing and turned to the international media to call for the release of detained human rights advocate Lee Ming-che (李明哲), saying the government would spare no efforts in defending the nation’s dignity and the rights of its citizens.

The council held an impromptu international news conference in Taipei hours after the legislature passed a motion proposed by the New Power Party accusing the government of being passive about Lee’s detention and urging it to bring the case to the attention of the international media.

“We must stress the government will do everything to defend our national security and people’s rights. Democracy and freedom are universal human rights that are protected by the Constitution and insisted upon by the 23 million Taiwanese,” Mainland Affairs Council Minister Katharine Chang (張小月) said.

Chang said the government’s priority is to ensure Lee’s safety, calling on Beijing to resolve the issue through dialogue and refrain from using political reasons to obstruct the case.

Reiterating the council’s three demands to Beijing, Chang said the Chinese government should immediately explain what offenses Lee has been accused of committing, disclose where he is being held and allow his family to visit him.

She dismissed criticism that the government has failed to play an active role in securing Lee’s release, saying both President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) and Premier Lin Chuan (林全) have paid close attention to the case.

“The reason we decided to hold an international press conference today is indeed in response to the legislative motion, but another important factor is Beijing’s denial of a planned visit by Lee’s wife,” Chang said. “We have to express our stern protest and discontent over the denial of a visit that should have been permitted on humanitarian grounds.”

Lee’s wife, Lee Ching-yu (李凈瑜), planned to fly to Beijing on Monday to seek a meeting with her husband, but her “Taiwan compatriot travel document” was rescinded by the Chinese government.

Asked whether the government would consider resorting to private channels to handle the case, such as a Taiwanese man named Lee Chun-min (李俊敏), Chang said the council preferred to use “official cross-strait communication channels” due to the difficulty of verifying the authenticity of information from private sources.

Lee Chun-min allegedly acted as a go-between for the Chinese government, telling Lee Ching-yu that her refusal to give up her visit would result in her husband’s “confession” being broadcast on Chinese state media.

As for the possibility of the government turning to a third nation for assistance, Chang did not give a direct response, but said the council would “make progressive efforts.”

Meanwhile, Presidential Office spokesman Alex Huang (黃重諺) said that Tsai attaches great importance to the case.

Huang said the Presidential Office has instructed government agencies to spare no efforts to safeguard Lee Ming-che’s rights and ensure his safety, while providing care and assistance to his family and negotiating with Beijing.

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