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China refuses to let alleged Taiwanese spy go home after end of prison term

Lee Meng-chu forced to stay in China for 2 more years due to loss of political rights

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Archived photo of Fangliao Township advisor Lee Meng-chu (right). 

Archived photo of Fangliao Township advisor Lee Meng-chu (right).  (CNA photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Taiwanese businessman Lee Meng-chu (李孟居) will not be allowed to return home after completing a prison term for alleged espionage since he also incurred a two-year loss of his political rights, China’s Taiwan Affairs Office (TAO) said Wednesday (April 27).

The comments from the communist government followed the April 15 return from China of human rights activist Lee Ming-che (李明哲), no relation of Lee Meng-chu, after serving five years in prison for his contacts with dissidents and democracy activists.

Lee Meng-chu, an advisor to the Fangliao Township government in Pingtung County, disappeared in Shenzhen, China, in August 2019 following a visit to Hong Kong. China later presented a video showing him apologizing for taking part in pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong and filming Chinese police in Shenzhen.

He was sentenced to a prison term of 22 months and a loss of political rights for two years. The TAO confirmed Wednesday that he had completed his prison term, but that he would not be allowed to leave China for the time being, CNA reported.

According to media reports, the loss of political rights is calculated to start from the release from prison. For Lee, that means he would not be able to return to Taiwan until 2024 but he would have freedom of movement within China.

The media reports contradict Lee Ming-che’s treatment, because he was allowed to leave China after his five-year jail term despite having also been sentenced to a loss of political rights for two years, according to the CNA report.