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Activists want China to free Taiwan human rights worker as jail term nears end

Five-year prison sentence for Lee Ming-che believed to end April 14

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Activists in Taipei call on China to free Taiwanese human rights worker Lee Ming-che at the end of his prison term. 

Activists in Taipei call on China to free Taiwanese human rights worker Lee Ming-che at the end of his prison term.  (CNA photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — As the end is approaching on China’s five-year prison term for Taiwanese human rights worker Lee Ming-che (李明哲), activists called Friday (March 18) on Beijing to free him.

Lee first disappeared in March 2017 after entering China from Macau, with the communist authorities waiting months before confirming he had been detained for his contacts with dissidents and human rights activists. At what was widely regarded as a show trial in Nov. 2017, he was sentenced to five years in prison on charges he had been trying to overthrow the Chinese government.

Lee should walk free immediately after the completion of his prison term, while the Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) should publicize the fate of other Taiwanese being held in China, human rights campaigners said Friday. The call was launched by eight organizations, including Amnesty International Taiwan, the Taiwan Association for Human Rights (TAHR), and the Judicial Reform Foundation outside the Legislative Yuan, CNA reported.

The activists pointed out that Lee had now spent at least 1,825 days in prison for something which was not a crime in the first place, namely exercising his freedom of speech. His wife, Lee Ching-yu (李淨瑜), had never received a copy of the verdict, and was thus unaware of what the precise end date of his jail term was, though the human rights groups estimated it was April 14.

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, China had turned down 16 requests by family members to visit him, and even phone calls had not been possible. Legal experts said Lee might be kept detained for an additional two years, as his verdict reportedly mentioned the loss of political rights for that period.