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Wife of jailed Taiwan rights activist prevented from flying to China

Airline told she did not hold the necessary travel documents

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Lee Ching-yu shows a copy of the letter from Chishan prison at the airport.

Lee Ching-yu shows a copy of the letter from Chishan prison at the airport. (CNA photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – The wife of Taiwanese human rights activist Lee Ming-che (李明哲) was prevented from boarding a flight to China Tuesday to go and visit him at his prison in the province of Hunan.

In November, a Chinese court sentenced him to five years in prison for subversive activities, after he had been arrested in March following his entry from Macau. Lee used to work for the ruling Democratic Progressive Party and was interested in human rights issues in China.

His wife, Lee Ching-yu (李凈瑜), received a notice Monday from the Chishan prison where he is being held and decided to fly over to visit him, even though she did not hold the required travel documents, the Liberty Times reported.

She arrived at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport at 10:50 a.m. Tuesday to check in on a Xiamenair flight, but the airline phoned the authorities in the Hunan capital of Changsha and received the message that she would not be allowed into the country.

A second phone call after Lee Ching-yu showed the letter from the prison did not help as Changsha said the document did not have the necessary stamps and seals, reports said. The airline reportedly paid back the ticket fare.

Lee said the right of relatives to visit their family member in prison was one of the oldest and most basic rights in any civilized country.

Since the prison letter said that her husband could be visited once a month on a Tuesday for 30 minutes, Lee told reporters she would try again each Tuesday.

She said she had phoned the Chishan prison on Monday evening, with officials promising they would let her visit her husband if she managed to enter China.

Lee Ching-yu told reporters at the airport that she had to show the attitude of a relative of a political prisoner and therefore had to go to the airport and try to fly to Hunan.

Her husband’s verdict has been seen as an attempt by the communist authorities to scare away foreign non-governmental and human rights organizations, while it has met with condemnation from Taiwan and from rights groups worldwide.