Civic groups yesterday condemned Chinese authorities for banning Lee Ching-yu (李凈瑜) from visiting her husband, jailed Taiwanese human rights advocate Lee Ming-che (李明哲), and called for his release.
“Chinese authorities’ decision to ban family visitation during the Lunar New Year period, a time of family reunion, is inhumane and shameful,” Taiwan Association for Human Rights secretary-general Chiu Ee-ling (邱伊翎) told a news conference in Taipei.
Lee Ching-yu was honest about her husband’s situation in Hunan Province’s Chishan Prison, Chiu said.
Photo: Huang Yao-cheng, Taipei Times
“No prisoners or their family would deliberately tell lies to risk more punishment,” she added.
Lee Ching-yu on Dec. 24 last year told a news conference that the prison had mistreated her husband by throwing away his warm clothing, serving him spoiled food and making him work more than 10 hours per day.
They also froze his bank account, refused to activate his telephone card and prevented him from receiving letters and books from family, she said.
On Monday, Lee Ching-yu received a letter from prison officials informing her that she has been banned from visiting her husband for three months, from Wednesday last week to April 22, because her public comments “deviated” from the facts and would “hinder” his rehabilitation.
“All of my visits to the prison were monitored by the Chinese government. What I said about the prison after returning to Taiwan was based entirely on what I saw and heard there,” Lee Ching-yu said.
Lee Ming-che had asked her to “tell everyone” about his situation after her return to Taiwan, telling her that “there is a lot more I have not told you,” she said.
She added that if her words diverted from the facts, the prison can release videos of their meeting.
“My husband is in your prison. What leverage do I have to spread lies? If I lied, you can immediately expose me,” Lee Ching-yu said.
“Why would human rights hinder a prisoner’s rehabilitation? Not to mention that Lee Ming-che is innocent,” she added.
She said that if Chinese authorities would not allow her to visit Lee Ming-che, they should at least allow civic groups and the Mainland Affairs Council to visit him.
“What China is doing is extending its crackdown on freedom of speech to Lee Ming-che’s family,” Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Yu Mei-nu (尤美女) said.
Banning family visitation is not only against universal humanitarian values, but against the UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners and China’s own law on imprisonment, she said.
The prison could continue to mistreat Lee Ming-che if his family is not allowed to visit, Amnesty International Taiwan director Annie Huang (黃尚卿) said.
“Chinese authorities should respect freedom of speech and release Lee Ming-che,” she said, adding that his family has the right to visit him.
To show support for Lee Ming-che, civic groups said that they have been urging the public to send postcards to him in prison and tag him On social media on Lunar New Year’s Eve.
They have sent more than 70 letters to him, they said.
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