Rights activist Lee Ming-cheh first Taiwanese to be jailed for subversion on mainland China

Mainland Affairs Council in Taiwan says sentence is ‘unacceptable’ and demands Lee’s release

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 28 November, 2017, 11:58am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 28 November, 2017, 10:46pm

Taiwanese rights activist Lee Ming-cheh was sentenced to five years’ jail for subversion by a mainland Chinese court, making him the first person from Taiwan to be convicted of the offence.

A judge delivered the verdict at the Yueyang Intermediate People’s Court in Hunan province on Tuesday morning, according to three video clips posted on the court’s official microblog account.

In Taiwan, the Mainland Affairs Council described Lee’s sentence as “unacceptable” and demanded his release as soon as possible.

Lee’s co-defendant Peng Yuhua, a mainland Chinese rights activist, was also convicted of subverting state power and sentenced to seven years in prison.

In one of the video clips, the men are seen being escorted into the court by four policemen, watched on by Lee’s wife Lee Ching-yu.

Taiwanese media reported that Lee – whose first name is also written Ming-che – was the first person from the island to be convicted on the mainland for subversion.

Lee and Peng were deprived of their political rights for two years, and both said they would not appeal their sentences. The pair had both pleaded guilty at a hearing in September.

Taiwanese rights activist pleads guilty to subversion in China’s mainland

Handing down his verdict, the judge said Peng had planned and carried out actions including setting up an illegal organisation with the purpose of subverting state power and attacking China’s constitution.

Citing evidence including their online chat history and testimonies, the court found Lee was “an active participant” in the actions, which grew from an internet chat group Peng started in 2012. That group went on to expand across China, the court heard, and its key members held meetings in person.

The judge said Lee and Peng incited views among others that were hostile towards state power.

Lee was also found guilty based on multimedia content he posted on social media platforms including WeChat, QQ and Facebook.

How China’s trial of Lee Ming-cheh is a warning to Taiwanese activists inspired by freedoms and democracy

Roseann Rife, East Asia research director at Amnesty International, said Lee was a victim of “a politically motivated prosecution”.

“The evidence against him is not credible, his conviction preposterous but predictable. He is the latest to suffer under the [mainland] Chinese authorities’ relentless attack against human rights and democracy activists,” Rife said.

The NGO worker went missing during a visit to mainland China in March and was held for more than 170 days before his court appearance in September.

Mainland authorities later confirmed he was under investigation for allegedly endangering national security.

Lee previously worked for Taiwan’s governing and independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party.

Beijing considers self-governing Taiwan to be a breakaway Chinese province. Nationalist forces fled to the island after losing the civil war on the Chinese mainland to the communists in 1949.