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Taiwanese citizen convicted in China on subversion charge (update 2)

2017/11/28 18:37:24

Lee Ming-che (李明哲, right)/CNA file photo

Taipei, Nov. 28 (CNA) Taiwanese human rights activist Lee Ming-che (李明哲) was sentenced by a court in China on Tuesday to five years in prison and two years' deprivation of political rights for "subversion of state power."

The verdict was handed down by the Yueyang Intermediate People's Court in Hunan Province and was broadcast on the court's Weibo microblogging site.

Lee said he will not appeal.

Lee was the first Taiwanese to be convicted of attempting to overthrow the Chinese government. A staff member at Wenshan Community College in Taipei, he was arrested on March 19 when entering Guangdong province from Macau.

China accused Lee of cooperating with Peng Yuhua (彭宇華), a Chinese citizen, in "organizing, planning and taking action to subvert national authority and overthrow the socialist system."

It said they used online discussion groups to disseminate information and articles attacking the Chinese government and system.

At the trial's only hearing on Sept. 11, both Lee and Peng pleaded guilty to the charge in what many described as a "forced confession."

Peng was sentenced on Tuesday to seven years behind bars and deprivation of political rights for two years, as the "ringleader" of the subversive attempt, while Lee was given a lighter sentence as an "active participant," according to the verdict.

Lee Ching-yu (李凈瑜), Lee Ming-che's wife, said in a statement after attending the announcement of the verdict in person that she was proud of her husband's advocacy for human rights.

She said she understood there may be a price to pay for pursuing one's ideals and that Lee Ming-che realized he might be subject to forced detention and forced confession, but that sacrifices still had to be made to fight for human rights to elevate society to a higher level of civilization.

Noting that they were "under no illusion" about the price to be paid, Lee Ching-yu said they had no right to complain and were ready to face whatever the future holds for them.

Talking to reporters later in her hotel room, Lee Ching-yu reiterated her position that her husband had done nothing but exercise his right to freedom of speech and that the trials he had gone through were unacceptable in a civilized world.

Lee Ching-yu said she was allowed to talk to her husband for just three minutes after the court issued its verdict, during which he asked her to send him books published by Book Republic (讀書共和國) and Gusa Publishing (八旗文化), for him to read in prison.

According to Wang Li-ping (王麗萍), who accompanied Lee Ching-yu on her flight from Taiwan to Hunan Monday evening but was denied entry, only one reporter and a photojournalist from Taiwan were allowed into Lee Ching-yu's hotel room to talk to her.

At a press conference in Taiwan Tuesday afternoon, Wang said that most Taiwanese reporters were kept out of the hotel, which was blocked off by police, a situation she described as "putting Lee Ching-yu under house arrest."

Lee Ching-yu told the reporters in her hotel room that when she was talking to her husband, he had tapped his chest to signal that he was wearing a recording device.

Lee Ching-yu said she told him that she had taken his case to the United States and the United Nations over the past eight months, which made him a high-profile political prisoner.

"I told him that the eyes of the world are on him and he needs to be brave," she said.

Meanwhile, in an interview with Chinese media after the court verdict, Lee Ming-che said he was given the sentence because he had made mistakes.

In the video interview, which was released by the court, he said he had pleaded guilty, was remorseful, and would not appeal the ruling.

On the question of what his future might look like, Lee Ming-che said he would serve his time in prison and be compliant.

(By Shih Hsiu-chuan)