Taiwanese rights activist to stand trial in mainland China
Lee Ming-cheh held since March accused of ‘endangering national security’, with his wife barred from visiting him
A Taiwanese rights activist held in mainland China will soon face trial after he was held incommunicado for more than 170 days, according to his wife, in a case that has deepened cross-strait tensions.
NGO worker Lee Ming-cheh went missing during a visit to the mainland in March and the Chinese authorities later confirmed he was under investigation for suspected activities “endangering national security”.
Lee’s wife Lee Ching-yu said she had received a call from a man claiming to be her husband’s lawyer on Wednesday telling her his trial was imminent.
China’s Taiwan Affairs Office confirmed there would be a trial in Yueyang in southern Hunan province, without specifying a date, according to local media.
Beijing has repeatedly ignored Taipei’s requests for an explanation of Lee’s whereabouts and specifics of the allegations against him.
Relations between the two sides have deteriorated since President Tsai Ing-wen took office in May last year and Beijing has cut off all official communication with Taipei.
China sees self-ruled Taiwan as part of its territory to be reunified and wants Tsai to acknowledge the island is part of “One China”, which she has refused to do.
Lee Ching-yu said in a statement that the man who called her asked her to go to mainland China immediately because her husband’s trial was about to start.
She added that until she spoke to her husband she would not accept he had made any confession to the Chinese authorities.
Despite the likelihood he would soon be jailed, Lee said she considered the possibility of seeing her husband “a ray of hope” and would apply for travel documents on Thursday.
She attempted to fly to Beijing in April in a bid to “rescue” her husband, but the Chinese authorities revoked her travel permit, preventing her from making the trip.
Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council on Wednesday urged China to give Lee the necessary travel documents and to guarantee her personal safety.
“The actions so far by the mainland have only continued to deepen the suspicion Taiwanese people have towards China,” it said in a statement.
Lee’s campaign for support for her husband has gained international attention.
She was planning to meet with the United Nations Human Rights Commission this month in Geneva.
She also testified at a congressional hearing in the United States in May on detained activists in China.
Lee Ming-cheh, who works for an NGO at a community college in Taipei, has long supported civil society organisations and activists in China, according to Amnesty International.
He had shared “Taiwan’s democratic experiences” with his Chinese friends online for many years and often mailed books to them, the Taiwan Association for Human Rights said.
Beijing deeply distrusts Tsai’s traditionally pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party and is ratcheting up the pressure on her government.
Although it is a fully fledged democracy, Taiwan has never declared formal independence from the mainland and Beijing has threatened a military response if it ever did.