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Wife of jailed activist asks China to allow prison visit

2019/01/29 15:40:36

Taipei, Jan. 29 (CNA) Lee Ching-yu (李凈瑜), the wife of democracy advocate Lee Ming-che (李明哲) who is being held in a Chinese prison, urged Beijing on Tuesday to allow prison visits by Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) on her behalf.

China has barred Lee from visiting her husband for a three-month period for "seriously distorting" the facts following a Dec. 18 visit to the prison in Hunan province where her husband is serving a sentence for "subversion of state power," the Taiwan Association for China Human Rights (TACHR) said Monday.

Speaking at a news conference at the Legislative Yuan, Lee dared Beijing to release videos recorded during her prison visit.

Lee said the description of prison conditions she gave after returning to Taiwan following her December visit were truthfully stated based on what she saw and heard related to Lee Ming-che's situation at that time.

At a Dec. 24 news conference, Lee said her husband was unable to buy the clothes and food he needed to withstand the prison's inhuman conditions because his bank account was frozen and that her husband was thinner because the food provided by the prison was mostly rotten.

On Tuesday, she recalled that her prison visits with Lee Ming-che were monitored by the Chinese government, and she urged China to expose her immediately if what she said was seriously inconsistent with the facts as Beijing suggested by releasing video of her visit.

Lee said she had no reason to lie about the situation given that her husband was already incarcerated in the Chinese prison.

In view of the three-month ban, Lee called on China to allow visits by international human rights organizations and the MAC, Taiwan's top agency in charge of China policy, on her behalf since she was not welcome, saying prisoners are entitled to receive humanitarian visits.

She stressed, however, that she would not let any Taiwanese businesspeople represent her because "they are under China's roof, which makes their situation difficult."

Chiu E-ling (邱伊翎), secretary-general of the Taiwan Association for Human Rights, called China's keeping Lee Ching-yu from her husband "shameful conduct," as the Lunar New Year is a time when everyone reunites with their families.

This year's Lunar New Year's Day falls on Feb. 5.

According to the TACHR, Lee received a notice from Chishan (赤山) Prison informing her that she will not be able to visit her husband during the period between Jan. 23 and April 22, on the grounds that she seriously distorted the facts following a Dec. 18 visit.

"Your distortion of the facts has disrupted the practice of normal legal affairs in the prison and has hampered the reform of Lee Ming-che," the notice reads.

Also speaking at the conference, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) lawmaker Yu Mei-nu (尤美女) criticized China for extending its restrictions on freedom of speech to the activist's family.

The lawmaker charged that Lee Ming-che's family would have to keep their lips sealing when visiting the activist to not be accused by China of "hampering efforts to reform Lee."

"What kind of country is that?" she said.

Referring to the notice, Yu condemned the official document for undermining freedom of speech and urged China to immediately restore Lee Ching-yu's visitation rights.

Lee Ming-che was convicted in November 2017 on a charge of "subversion of state power" for using online discussion groups to disseminate information and articles attacking the Chinese government and system.

He was sentenced to five years in prison and to a deprivation of his political rights for two years.

The 43-year-old, then a member of the staff at Wenshan Community College in Taipei, was arrested in March 2017 when he entered Guangdong Province from Macau.

This is not the first time China has blocked Lee Ching-yu's desire to visit her husband. After Lee's visit in September 2018, Beijing put obstacles in her way, delaying her next visit to December 2018.

(By Chen Chun-hua and Chung Yu-chen)