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Taiwan's MAC urges China to release Lee Ming-che, one year after his arrest

Pro-democracy activist Lee Ming-che was convicted of 'subversion of state power' by the Chinese court

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Civil groups gathered in front of the Presidential Office on Monday, calling the government to pay more attention to the imprisonment of Lee Ming-che.

Civil groups gathered in front of the Presidential Office on Monday, calling the government to pay more attention to the imprisonment of Lee Ming-che. (CNA photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Monday marked one year since pro-democracy activist Lee Ming-che (李明哲) was arrested by the Chinese authorities, with Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) urging Beijing to release Lee as soon as possible and also to allow Lee’s wife, Lee Ching-yu (李凈瑜), to pay him visits in prison.

On Monday morning, Taiwan’s top office for cross-strait affairs welcomed its new minister Chen Ming-tong (陳明通), a scholar highly regarded for his knowledge on cross-strait relations and who has a decent rapport with Chinese officials. The office released a statement later in the evening, emphasizing its continual concern over the imprisonment of Lee.

Compared to previous statements, MAC this time used with much gentler language. “Imprisonment will not prevent people’s longing for freedom, democracy, and justice. Only when Beijing begins to accept diverse opinions with open-mindedness will its task of reforms be provided with sufficient nutrients. Setting Lee Ming-che free should be an important step in pushing forward the reforms pursued by China.”

Meanwhile, a coalition of civil groups formed in support of the release of Lee gathered in front of the Presidential Office on Monday, calling on President Tsai Ing-wen to pay more attention to the case.

According to the coalition, the Taiwan government should cooperate with the international community, impose pressure on the Chinese authorities, and come up with measures to prevent similar cases from happening again in the future.

The Tsai administration, the ruling Democratic Progressive Party, and opposition party Kuomintang have all been criticized over the past year by these groups for not taking enough action to aid in the release of Lee Ming-che.

Lee was reported to have been moved to the Chishan Prison in China’s province of Hunan in January. His wife has been trying to visit him in prison ever since.

Lee was reported missing in China on March 19, 2017. Later the Chinese authorities confirmed that Lee had been taken into custody and would be tried for "subversion of state power."

On November 28, Lee was sentenced to jail for five years and deprived of political rights for two years.