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Lee Ming-che could be given 'heavy' sentence: expert

2017/11/27 22:50:19

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Shanghai, Nov. 27 (CNA) Taiwanese activist Lee Ming-che will likely get a "heavy sentence" for allegedly subverting state power that will serve as a tough warning for Taiwan, a U.S.-based Chinese legal expert said Monday ahead of Tuesday's verdict.

Teng Biao, a Chinese lawyer who once taught at the University of Politics and Law in Beijing, told CNA from New Jersey in a telephone interview that even if Lee is given a light sentence, it would not mean China is showing goodwill to Taiwan or adjusting its policy toward Taiwan.

A staff member at Wenshan Community College in Taipei and a former DPP worker, Lee Ming-che went missing after entering China via Macau on March 19.

He was later confirmed to have been detained by Chinese authorities, and China announced in May that he had been arrested on the charge of subverting state power.

On Sept. 11, Lee pleaded guilty in the trial's only hearing in what was seen as a forced confession. The verdict in his trial will be announced Tuesday morning at a court in Yueyang, Hunan province.

Under Chinese law, the charge of "subverting state power" could draw a sentence of 10 years to life imprisonment. If Lee is given less than two years in jail, that would be a "light" sentence, said Teng, a visiting scholar at Princeton University.

"If Lee is released, China will be seen as weak. If China wants to show itself to be tough on Taiwan, it will likely give Lee a long sentence," Teng said.

A key factor the Chinese court will take into account is whether Lee's alleged "criminal acts" had a "key impact" in China, according to the former lawyer who used to fight for Chinese human rights.

Given the fact that the "crime" Lee confessed to in September did not reach the standard of being the "main perpetrator" in the case as charged by the prosecution, Lee could in fact be given a light sentence, Teng analyzed.

In that case, Teng said he would surmise China is trying to create conditions for a "trade" with Taiwan -- over a case involving a Chinese spy now detained in Taiwan, for example.

That would be a "political calculation" rather than a change in China's Taiwan policy, he said.

Another possibility is that Lee could be given a heavy sentence but be eligible for an undefined early release, which would allow Lee to continue to serve as a chip in Beijing's political game, Teng said.

(By Chang Shu-ling and S.C. Chang)