Activists want China to free Taiwan human rights worker

Call comes on the first anniversary of his two-year prison sentence

"Freedom of speech: Lee Ming-che is not guilty," campaigners in Taipei said Wednesday.

"Freedom of speech: Lee Ming-che is not guilty," campaigners in Taipei said Wednesday. (CNA photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – Human rights activists in Taipei demanded the release of Lee Ming-che (李明哲) Wednesday, the first anniversary of a Chinese court sentencing him to five years in prison for so-called subversive activities.

Lee went missing immediately after arriving in China in March last year, with Beijing authorities only acknowledging much later that he had been arrested.

The Taiwan Association for Human Rights (TAHR) and other rights groups including Tibetans focused on his plight at a news conference Wednesday.

Lee’s case has been widely interpreted as China trying to intimidate foreign non-governmental organizations into remaining silent about the deteriorating human rights situation in the communist country.

His wife, Lee Ching-yu (李淨瑜), has recently been repeatedly refused her requests to visit her husband by the Chinese prison authorities. It has also come to light that he was moved to another prison for a short time and then taken back, but no explanation was given, raising fears about his health.

Taiwan has condemned the negative replies to the requests from his wife to visit Lee, the Central News Agency reported. Her most recent trip dates from September 10.

The Taiwanese activist should not have been jailed in the first place, but as he is awaiting his release, he should be allowed full access to his relatives and to adequate medical care, human rights campaigners said.