TAIPEI (Taiwan News) -- Taiwanese human rights activist Lee Ming-che (李明哲) was sentenced to five years in prison and deprivation of political rights for two years today (Nov. 28) by a Chinese court for what was described as "subversion of state power," reported UDN.
The verdict of "subversion of state power" was handed down by the Hunan Province Yueyang City Intermediate People's Court at 9:15 a.m. today. At 6:30 a.m., police barricades were placed in front of the court and traffic control areas were set up to prohibit any vehicles from nearing the courthouse.
After the court read the verdict this morning, Lee said that he would not appeal the court's decision.
Lee's wife, Lee Ching-yu (李凈瑜), departed Taipei on Monday to attend the trial along with former Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) lawmaker Wang Li-ping (王麗萍), the daughter of former DPP chairman Shih Ming-teh (施明德) Shih Chia (施笳), as well as two officials from Taiwan's semi-official Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF). However, upon the party's arrival in Hunan at about 6:30 p.m. last night, Lee's friend Wang was suddenly denied entry into China, and she was forced to fly to Hong Kong International Airport and then take a late flight back to Taiwan.
As Lee traveled to Yueyang City last night, she posted the emotion "speechless" on Facebook. She arrived at Yueyang at 10:30 p.m. last night.
Lee Ming-che, 42, is a former employee of President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) DPP who expressed interest in China’s human rights situation and later went on to volunteer for a non-governmental organization that raised money for families of political prisoners in China and lecture on Taiwan's democratization at community colleges.
On March 19 of this year, after traveling to the southern Chinese province of Guangdong by way of Macau, Lee suddenly disappeared. On March 29, it was revealed that he had been detained by Chinese national security authorities for "pursuing activities harmful to national security."
Prosecutors at the Yueyang court in Huanan accused Lee of "attacking Chinese society and encouraging multi-party rule" through an organization called Plum Blossom Company and in a chat group with 2,000 members in the online messaging platform QQ. Lee was also accused of cooperating with Chinese citizen Peng Yuhua (彭宇華) on the creation of the online chat group, which was critical of the Chinese Communist system and the Chinese government.
During the trial's only hearing on Sept. 11, Lee pleaded guilty to subverting Beijing's authority, the first time a non-profit worker has been prosecuted on such charges since China passed a new strict law constraining foreign non-governmental organizations. Lee's wife told reporters that day that she believed her husband had been pressured into pleading guilty, but she had originally hoped this would mean he would be eventually released.