Wife of imprisoned Taiwan activist to seek US government's help

Lee Ching-yu will visit the United States to raise awareness of her husband, Lee Ming-che's detention in Washington

Lee Ching-yu

Lee Ching-yu (CNA photo)

TAIPEI (CNA) -- Lee Ching-yu (李凈瑜), wife of Taiwanese democracy advocate Lee Ming-che (李明哲), will visit the United States on Sunday to raise government awareness of the situation regarding her husband's imprisonment in China, according to a Taiwanese NGO that is helping to organize her trip.

During the one-week visit, Lee Ching-yu will make appeals to the U.S. Congress and the Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC), an independent agency of the U.S. government that monitors human rights and rule of law developments in China, the Taiwan Association for China Human Rights (TACHR) said.

The U.S. Congress and the CECC have both been following Lee Ming-che's case closely and have already had meetings with his wife through representatives who have visited in Taiwan over the past year, according to the TACHR.

In 2017, Lee Ching-yu made a similar trip to the U.S. and met with Matthew Pottinger, the senior director for Asian affairs at the U.S. National Security Council.

Her planned trip on Sunday comes on the heels of a decision by China on Jan. 23 to bar her for three months from visiting her husband, who has been imprisoned in Hunan Province since late 2017 on accusations of "subversion of state power."

According to the TACHR, Lee was notified by Chishan Prison that she would not be allowed to visit her husband between Jan. 23 and April 22 because she had distorted the facts about his treatment in prison, after her last visit on Dec. 18.

One week after the Dec. 18 visit, Lee Ching-yu told reporters in Taipei that Chishan Prison was treating her husband inhumanely and had frozen his bank account, making it impossible for him to buy food and clothes.

The day after her Dec. 25 news conference, China's Taiwan Affairs Office responded by saying she was "spreading politically motivated misinformation."

"Her mean comments have disrupted the normal practice of legal affairs in the prison," said the office's spokesman Ma Xiaoguang (馬曉光).

Lee Ming-che was convicted in November 2017 on a charge of "subversion of state power" after being accused of disseminating information and articles online against the Chinese government and system.

He was sentenced to five years in prison and deprivation of his political rights for two years.

The 43-year-old democracy activist, then a member of the staff at Wenshan Community College in Taipei, was arrested in March 2017 when he entered Guangdong Province from Macau.