A Taiwanese NGO worker detained on subversion charges in China is to stand trial soon.

Lee Ming-cheh, 42, disappeared on March 19, after he entered the Chinese city of Zhuhai from Macau, according to the Taiwan government. Chinese authorities later confirmed that they were holding Lee on suspicion of “endangering state security.”

Lee’s wife Lee Ching-yu said at a press conference in Taipei on Wednesday that she received a call from her husband’s lawyer, telling her that she must travel to China at once to attend his trial.

Lee Ching-yu.

Lee said the lawyer told her that the trial was to take place “soon,” but did not specify a date.

A spokesperson of the mainland’s Taiwan Affairs Office confirmed Wednesday evening that Lee will appear at the Yueyang Intermediate People’s Court, located in the southeastern province of Hunan. He said that Lee had appointed two lawyers as his counsel, and that his lawyers notified Lee’s family about the hearing according to Lee’s wishes.

But his wife said the lawyers were appointed by the authorities, and cast doubt on statements made on her husband’s behalf whilst he was under detention. She said: “[B]efore I see Lee Ming-cheh in person, I do not recognise any confessions or appointments that Lee Ming-cheh makes under a non-free will.”


In May, official state news agency Xinhua reported that Lee had “confessed” following interrogation.

Lee had “colluded with mainlanders… established illegal organisations, and plotted out and carried out activities to subvert state power,” it cited a spokesman for the State Council Taiwan Affairs Office as saying.

A manager at a community college, Lee also volunteers with human rights NGOs. He shares Taiwan’s democratic experience with friends on the mainland through Chinese messaging app WeChat, according to the director at the community college where Lee worked.

Lee Ming-cheh. Photo: Lee Ching-yu.

Lee previously stated that she would not hire a mainland lawyer for her husband, as it would lend legitimacy to the trial, which she compared to a “political show” in a society ruled by a dictatorship and not by law.

She invited any willing legal professionals to accompany her to China on a voluntary basis, to act as a legal consultant.

Lee said she would apply for travel documentation on Thursday.

“No matter how great the pain in my heart was during this period, how much sorrow, in the end, I am very happy that I have a ray of hope to I can see the ‘disappeared’ Lee Ming-cheh again,” she said.

The Secretary General of the Taiwan Association for Human Rights said that the NGO had planned to accompany Lee Ching-yu to Geneva on Friday to speak to the UN Committee on Enforced Disappearances, and that the move by Chinese authorities summoning Lee to Hunan may have been meant to disrupt this plan. She said that members of the NGO would stick to their plan to travel to Geneva.

Catherine Lai

Catherine is a Canadian journalist and photographer who lived in Beijing for almost two years, working in TV and online media. Aside from Hong Kong and mainland affairs, she is also interested in urban spaces, art and feminism. She holds a BA in Literature and Art History from the University of British Columbia.