Tue, Sep 12, 2017 - Page 1 News List

Lawmakers urge Beijing to release Lee

By Chen Wei-han  /  Staff reporter

Following the trial of human rights advocate Lee Ming-che (李明哲) in a Chinese court yesterday, lawmakers across party lines called for his release and urged Beijing to ensure his legal rights and respect his fundamental right to freedom of speech, saying his conviction would further aggravate cross-strait relations.

Lee pleaded guilty to “subversion of state power” during a brief appearance at the Yueyang City Intermediate People’s Court in Hunan Province.

It was his first public appearance following months of detention since his disappearance on March 19.

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Liu Chao-hao (劉櫂豪) said Lee was forced to confess after his unfair arrest, detention and prosecution.

China did not offer Lee a lawyer or allow family visits, although such rights are deemed necessary in the Chinese judiciary system, Liu said.

“We call on China, as a leading world power, to perform its duties of ensuring democracy, rule of law and human rights,” he said.

Lee’s arrest was aimed at the DPP administration, as it occurred at a time when cross-strait relations have deteriorated, DPP Legislator Ho Hsin-chun (何欣純) said.

Lee’s case could further sour relations and impact tourism and business relations, as Taiwanese tourists and investors would have second thoughts about visiting or investing in China, Ho said.

She called on China to abide by the Cross-Strait Joint Crime-Fighting and Judicial Mutual Assistance Agreement (海峽兩岸共同打擊犯罪及司法互助協議).

Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) caucus secretary-general Lin Wei-chou (林為洲) said Lee’s arrest and trial were an affront to Taiwan’s freedom of speech.

“Lee’s case could set a precedent that Taiwanese could be arrested in China for what they said or did in Taiwan,” Lin said, calling on China to respect Taiwan’s democratic system, which protects freedom of expression.

Lin also demanded Mainland Affairs Council officials to resign over their inability to deal with Beijing.

“The DPP administration has been unusually silent about Lee’s case, an apparent reversal of its attitude when it was an opposition party criticizing former president Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration for its handling of similar cases,” KMT Legislator Lee Yen-hsiu (李彥秀) said.

Lee Yen-hsiu asked the government to relaunch communications with Beijing and use the cross-strait judicial cooperation mechanism to prevent similar cases.

“The live-streamed court trial was an orchestrated show and it shows the world what oppression, disguised as a trial is,” New Power Party Legislator Hsu Yung-ming (徐永明) wrote on social media.

Lee Ming-che repeated formulaic terms in his defense, such as “maliciously attacked and defamed the Chinese government, the Chinese Communist Party and China’s current political system,” suggesting that he was forced to memorize the confession, Hsu said.

The trial exposes China’s vulnerability, as the subversion charge was brought against Lee Ming-che simply because he had written criticism of the Chinese political system, Hsu said.

Presidential Office spokesman Alex Huang (黃重諺) said that President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) is concerned for Lee Ming-che and has instructed government agencies to work to free him.

Huang said the government is very concerned about Lee Ming-che’s situation, including his health and his human rights, and government agencies have made an effort to help his family secure his release.

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