TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — As the Chinese prison sentence for Taiwanese pro-democracy activist Lee Ming-che (李明哲) is anticipated to end on Thursday (April 14), the Taiwan Affairs Office (TAO) says that it is making preparations for Lee's return to Taiwan.
When asked during a press conference on Wednesday (April 13) about Lee's possible release from prison, TAO Spokesperson Ma Xiaoguang (馬曉光) said that the office will make arrangements for Lee's return to the country but did not specify when this would take place. Ma said that since the first instance of the judgment of Lee's case was announced in November 2017, Lee did not file an appeal.
Ma stated that while serving his prison sentence, the facility strictly "guaranteed his health, (access to) communication, and other rights and interests." Ma added that Lee is in "stable physical condition."
According to Ma, since the start of the COVID pandemic in 2020, the prison's authorities have suspended all on-site visits by relatives of prisoners. Ma said Lee's prison sentence is set to end as scheduled and that Lee's return to Taiwan will be arranged in the "near future."
Lee was arrested by Chinese authorities in March 2017 when entering China from Macau due to his remarks on social media promoting the success of Taiwan's democracy. In November of the same year, Lee was sentenced to five years in prison after he allegedly confessed to "subverting state power," a confession that his supporters say was forced.
Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) Deputy Minister Chiu Chui-cheng (邱垂正) has repeatedly called on China to inform Lee as soon as possible of the specific date of his release and allow him to return to Taiwan after completing his sentence. Eight civic organizations, including Amnesty International Taiwan, the Judicial Reform Foundation, and the Taiwan Association for Human Rights held a press conference on March 18 calling on China to release Lee and allow him to return to Taiwan when his prison term ends.
Amnesty International Taiwan Secretary-General Chiu I-ling (邱伊翎) said that Lee has been "improperly detained" in China for more than 1,825 days and that Lee's wife Lee Ching-yu (李凈瑜) has yet to receive the verdict and could not confirm the official sentence and end date. The human rights group estimates that Lee's sentence should end on Thursday.