Taiwanese legislators have accused China of using the case of detained NGO worker Lee Ming-cheh to intimidate Taiwanese people.

Lee, a community college manager and NGO worker, was tried by a Chinese court in central Hunan province in September along with Chinese activist Peng Yuhua. Lee “confessed” to charges of “subverting state power,” stating that he wrote and distributed articles which were critical of the Communist Party and promoted democracy.

Before his disappearance during a trip to the mainland in March, Lee participated in discussions on democracy in online chat groups with activists in China, and was a supporter of Chinese civil organisations.

From left: Yu Mei-nu,Hsu Yung-Ming, and representatives from groups calling for Lee Ming-cheh’s release. Photo: RFA.

A group of Taiwanese NGOs campaigning for Lee’s release warned at a press conference on Monday that Lee’s case did not only concern him, but posed a problem for all Taiwanese people.

Legislator Hsu Yung-Ming of the New Power Party said: “If [the Chinese government] is really allowed to proceed with this case, in the future Taiwan will have a large police headquarters in Beijing – we would be worried about all of our words and actions in Taiwan, and we would be regarded as being supposedly ‘within China’s borders’.”

“[This] is not something that our government can disregard,” he continued. “The chilling effect on the Taiwanese public – the effect of intimidation is very clear.”

No jurisdiction 

Democratic Progressive Party legislator Yu Mei-nu said that, if someone advocated for democracy and multi-party politics online in Taiwan but was convicted for it in China, it would amount to China’s intimidation and restriction of Taiwanese people. China and Taiwan are two independent political entities, and China has no jurisdiction over citizens’ actions in Taiwan, she said.

The NGOs also said that Lee may have already been secretly sentenced by the court, and he may be pressured to give up his right to appeal if he were not given the verdict in public. They also asked to be allowed to be present at the reading of the verdict.

Lee Ming-cheh appears in court. Photo: Screenshot.

The groups and legislators called on the Taiwanese government to take action and protect the rights of Taiwanese people.

Chiu Ee-ling, Secretary General of the Taiwan Association for Human Rights, urged the Taiwanese government to tell the international community about the Beijing’s violation of the human rights of Taiwanese people in a later interview with VOA. The government should not quietly acquiesce to China overstepping its jurisdiction, she said.

Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council released a statement on Monday night, saying that the Taiwan government has always released information on Lee’s case when necessary. It said that the Council will continue to monitor the case’s development, with “rescuing” Lee as its primary objective.

The statement also said that the government would consider any action that could help save Lee, and will continue to cooperate with all parties to help him return safely to Taiwan.

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.