China moves Taiwan rights activist to other prison

The move occurred just before Lee Ming-che's relatives were scheduled to visit him

The Yancheng Prison in China's Hebei Province (image from Baidu).

The Yancheng Prison in China's Hebei Province (image from Baidu). (By Central News Agency)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – China has moved Taiwanese human rights activist Lee Ming-che (李明哲) from a prison in Hunan where he was serving a five-year sentence for subversive activities to a facility in the northern province of Hebei, reports said Friday.

Weeks after he disappeared in March last year when crossing from Macau into China, the communist authorities accused the NGO worker of conspiring to subvert the government and sentenced him to prison last November after a show trial.

Following the latest move, Lee’s relatives have found it hard to obtain information and permission to visit him, the Central News Agency reported Friday.

His relatives had originally received the go-ahead from China to meet Lee for the sixth time at the Chishan prison in Hunan Province on October 22, the Mainland Affairs Council said.

However, just three days before the scheduled trip, an association of Taiwanese business people in the province received the notice that Lee had been moved to the Yancheng Prison in the city of Sanhe, to apparently the only jail in China run directly by the Justice Ministry.

Taiwan immediately asked the Chinese authorities for information and for assistance in arranging a new visit, but so far, no reply had been received, CNA reported.

The Yancheng facility was opened in 2002 and at present contained 650 inmates, though there was space for a total of 1,600, reports said. The authorities sometimes arranged tours of the prison, while its inmates numbered special personalities, such as Gu Kailai, the wife of disgraced Chongqing communist leader Bo Xilai, as well as foreign citizens.

Lee’s sentence was widely interpreted as an attempt by China to intimidate non-governmental and human rights organizations, while the trial and its verdict met with condemnation from Taiwan and from rights groups worldwide.