Thu, Sep 26, 2019 - Page 3 News List

China rejects Lee Ming-che funeral leave

By Ann Maxon  /  Staff reporter

Lee Ching-yu sits in front of a poster featuring her husband’s image at a news conference in Taipei on Feb. 12.

Photo: Chung Li-hua, Taipei Times

China’s Taiwan Affairs Office (TAO) yesterday rejected a request from Lee Ching-yu (李凈瑜) that her husband, democracy advocate Lee Ming-che (李明哲), be given funeral leave to attend his father’s funeral in Taiwan.

Granting Lee Ming-che funeral leave “would contravene related laws,” office spokesperson Ma Xiaoguang (馬曉光) told a routine news conference in Beijing yesterday.

The prison has already provided the family with a detailed explanation regarding the matter, he said.

Lee, who in September 2017 was sentenced to a five-year term for subversion of state power, is now in Chishan Prison in Hunan Province.

Lee Ching-yu (李凈瑜) on Monday visited him at the prison, and also appealed to authorities to grant him leave.

As guarantee that he would return to complete his sentence, she offered to stay in prison in his stead.

“China’s response was just like what we had expected,” she said yesterday in a statement.

“By applying for a funeral leaving, I was treating Chinese authorities as if China were a civilized government, hoping that it would at some point conform to the standards of the civilized world, but such expectations were clearly my fantasy,” she said, adding that she hopes Taiwanese would remember this moment.

Although her husband wants to attend the funeral, he refused to let her stand-in for him at the prison, she said.

She was willing to be a hostage to the Chinese government because she wanted it to know that “Taiwanese are not afraid of going to prison,” she said.

Following the era of presidents Chiang Kai-Shek (蔣介石) and Chiang Ching-kuo (蔣經國), Taiwanese know that freedom always comes at a cost, she said.

Meanwhile, a coalition of human rights groups including Amnesty International, the Taiwan Association for Human Rights and the Judicial Reform Foundation questioned the legal basis for the Chinese decision.

Chinese prisons have previously allowed inmates to take funeral leaves, including Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo (劉曉波), they said in a joint statement.

“When the TAO said granting funeral leaves would be illegal, exactly which laws was it referring to?” the groups asked.

Mainland Affairs Council Minister Chen Ming-tong (陳明通) on Tuesday said that the council would continue to provide assistance to Lee Ching-yu and expressed hopes that Chinese authorities would grant Lee Ming-che funeral leave for humanitarian reasons.

Additional reporting by Chung Li-hua

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