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Human rights in China

Wife of jailed Taiwanese activist to visit him in mainland China prison

Lee Ching-yu granted permission to see her husband Lee Ming-cheh, who is serving a five-year sentence for subversion of state power

PUBLISHED : Monday, 26 March, 2018, 2:21pm
UPDATED : Monday, 26 March, 2018, 9:44pm

The wife of a Taiwanese human rights activist jailed in mainland China set off on Monday after being granted permission to visit him in prison for the first time, in a case that has strained cross-strait relations.

The Taiwan Association for Human Rights said Lee Ching-yu left Taiwan on Monday to see her husband Lee Ming-cheh in prison in Changsha, capital of central China’s Hunan province. The group said Lee Ching-yu would meet her husband on Tuesday.

Lee is serving a five-year prison sentence after being convicted by a mainland court in November of the vaguely defined charge of “subversion of state power”.

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Lee was found guilty of subversion for holding online political lectures and helping the families of jailed dissidents on the mainland.

Lee Ching-yu told reporters before her departure on Monday that she intended to pass on “messages from the free world” during her planned visit to see him.

Taiwan’s Central News Agency reported the mainland authority informed Lee through a mainland-based Taiwanese business association on Thursday, saying it would issue a one-off document allowing her to enter the mainland. Her previous application was rejected because she did not have a valid Mainland Travel Permit needed by Taiwanese citizens.

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CNA said Lee is being accompanied by an official from Taiwan’s semi-official Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF), which handles relations with the mainland, citing an SEF official. She is set to return to Taiwan on Wednesday, the SEF official said.

Meanwhile, Taiwan’s top government department on cross-strait affairs, the Mainland Affairs Council, said it had communicated with the mainland authority through a formal cross-strait channel to ensure Lee access to visit her husband in prison and the security of Lee and her companions while on the mainland, CNA reported.

Lee Ming-cheh was arrested in March 2017 during a trip to the mainland and held incommunicado for months.

Beijing cancelled Lee Ching-yu’s mainland travel permit last April as she searched for her missing husband and later granted her only single-entry visas to attend the trial and sentencing.

But in January she was barred from boarding a flight to visit her husband in Hunan’s Chishan prison.

Lee had confessed during his trial in September, which his wife dismissed as “a political show”.

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During his trial, Lee admitted the charges, stating that he had written and distributed online articles that criticised the mainland’s ruling Communist Party and promoted democracy.

He had shared “Taiwan’s democratic experiences” with his mainland friends online for many years and often mailed books to them, according to the Taiwan Association for Human Rights.

The Yueyang City Intermediate People’s Court in central China handed down the sentence against Lee in November after finding him guilty of subversion of state power.

Amnesty International and Taiwanese rights groups have vowed to continue pushing for his release.

Agence France-Presse, Associated Press