Human rights activists protest on November 28, 2017 in Taipei for the condemnation in China of their pro-democracy partner Lee Ming-cheh
A Taiwanese pro-democracy activist was sentenced Tuesday in China to five years in prison for „subversion“, a verdict described as „unacceptable“ by Taiwan and a parody of justice by human rights associations.
Wearing glasses and wearing a green tracksuit, Lee Ming-cheh, author of articles critical of the Chinese Communist Party (PCC), quietly listened to the sentence, before being taken by two policemen, according to a video released online by a court in Hunan province (center).
Another co-defendant, of Chinese nationality, Peng Yuhua, who had received these articles, was sentenced to seven years in prison. Both announced that they will not appeal the judgment, according to the court.
Lee is the first Taiwanese citizen to be convicted under the Chinese criminal code for „subversion,“ the Judicial Association Reform Foundation said in Taipei.
For its part, the government of Taiwan called the trial „unacceptable“. „We urge Beijing to release Lee and allow him to return quickly to Taiwan,“ the Taiwanese presidency said in a statement.
During a hearing in September, the activist had acknowledged having written and disseminated the texts in question.
„The television that I see in my prison has allowed me to understand China better,“ he said in court, before concluding: „I know that it violated the Chinese law […] I express my guilt and my repentance.“
– „Scandalous trial“ –
This employee of an association for the defense of Human Rights had been arrested in March, during a trip to mainland China, and his relatives had not heard from him for months.
Finally, the authorities confirmed that he had been arrested, accusing him of having „endangered national security“.
„It is an absolutely scandalous trial,“ said William Nee, a specialist in China for the NGO Amnesty International. „Lee Ming-cheh should not serve a single day in prison since everything he has done, that is, peacefully speaking about current affairs and history issues, is expressly guaranteed by international law,“ he told AFP.
Mainland China and Taiwan are run by rival regimes since the end of the Chinese Civil War in 1949. The island has an autonomous government, but Beijing considers it one of its provinces.
Before Lee’s trial, Beijing had ignored the Taiwan government’s requests for information about his case.
His wife, who was able to attend the hearing, stated that her husband had „paid the price“ for his ideals.
But a former member of the Taiwanese parliament who accompanied him was expelled upon his arrival in Chinese territory.
The Beijing regime has not shown any signs of flexibilization since the PCC congress that confirmed and extended the powers of President Xi Jinping in October.
On that occasion, Xi exhorted to „clearly oppose any word and action“ that could undermine the authority of the Party.
Since then, a lawyer specializing in the defense of human rights, Jiang Tianyong, was sentenced last week to two years for „incitement to subversion.“