US ‘disappointed’ in ruling on Lee, urges his release

By Stacy Hsu  /  Staff reporter

Thu, Nov 30, 2017 - Page 1

The US yesterday expressed its disappointment in China’s sentencing of Taiwanese human rights advocate Lee Ming-che (李明哲) to five years in prison and called for his release.

“The United States is disappointed that Lee Ming-che has been sentenced to five years in prison on vague charges of ‘subversion of state power,’” American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) spokeswoman Sonia Urbom said.

The AIT urges the Chinese authorities to release Lee and allow him to reunite with his family, she said.

The statement came one day after a Chinese court sentenced Lee over charges of attempting to subvert state power on the grounds that Lee had been an “active participant” in an organization founded by Chinese national Peng Yuhua (彭宇華) to pressure China to accept a multiparty political system.

Lee was accused of using the Internet to intervene in and attract attention to major events in China.

His conviction marks China’s first known criminal prosecution of a nonprofit worker since Beijing in April last year passed a law tightening controls over foreign non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

The court said Lee has decided not to appeal.

Lee, a staff member of Taipei’s Wenshan Community College and volunteer with Covenants Watch, was detained after entering China on March 19.

He was initially thought to have gone missing, until China’s Taiwan Affairs Office on March 29 said that he had been detained.

However, it did not disclose the charges he was facing until May.

Freedom House, which researches and advocates for democracy and human rights, yesterday also published a statement condemning the ruling.

“The court conviction and imprisonment of Lee Ming-che for his social media posts is an attempt by China to silence advocates for democracy throughout the region, extending even to activists’ private conversations with friends,” Freedom House president Michael Abramowitz said in a statement.

Lee’s being found guilty of subversion of state power is “a rejection of the most fundamental democratic values,” Abramowitz said.

Lee’s wife, Lee Ching-yu (李凈瑜), urged the public to continue to pay attention to her husband’s situation now that he has embarked on a new chapter of his life as a prisoner of conscience.

“We must not let him suffer alone in a corner of the world, forgotten,” Lee Ching-yu said upon landing at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport from China, where she attended her husband’s hearing.

She also expressed her gratitude to the US government, the international community and local NGOs for supporting her and her husband over the past few months.

Meanwhile, China said that any attempt to “hype up” its decision to jail a Taiwanese rights activist for subversion would be futile, after the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) administration labeled the result “unacceptable.”

“Any attempts to hype up the case for political ends or to instigate opposition between compatriots across the [Taiwan] Strait will all be futile,” China’s Taiwan Affairs Office spokesman Ma Xiaoguang (馬曉光) told reporters at a regular news briefing.

State-backed tabloid Global Times said in an editorial that the DPP’s statement was tantamount to encouraging Taiwanese to come to China and break the law.

“We hope that Taiwanese will not accept the DPP’s witchcraft and will not become an assault team or sacrificial victims for them,” it said.

Additional reporting by Reuters