TAIPEI, Taiwan ( Associated Press) — A Taiwanese human rights activist serving a five-year prison sentence in China said international pressure and tireless advocacy by his wife worked to ensure his safe return to Taiwan.
“I know that the safety and security of my life was defended by many, thanks to all, I have never felt abandoned or alone,” Lee Ming-che told a news conference on Tuesday from prison. Said in his first public appearance after being released.
Li Ming-che was arrested by Chinese authorities in 2017 and charged with subverting state power, His arrest was China’s first criminal trial for a non-profit activist since Beijing passed a law tightening controls on foreign non-governmental organizations in 2016.
His arrest marked a turning point as China showed it would not hesitate to prosecute Taiwanese individuals for political activism, even if it harmed cross-strait ties. It also raised public awareness of the tangible consequences of China’s authoritarian rule on individuals in Taiwan as relations between Taiwan and China deteriorated with the election of President Tsai Ing-wen.
China claims Taiwan is part of its national territory and has not ruled out the use of force to bring the island under its rule. Taiwan is, in practice, self-governing.
Li lectured online on the democratization of Taiwan and managed a fund for the families of political prisoners in China that some friends had set up.
“I did what I could, using my credit card to buy some books,” he said, which he used to send to friends in China. He will also donate to the families of political prisoners. “It is not meant to interfere in the internal affairs of the country. All this was only a way of humane care. ,
Li is the son of parents who were both born in China and immigrated to Taiwan with the ruling Nationalist Party. He always thought of himself as a Chinese man growing up. This changed in high school with a history teacher who taught students to learn about local history.
Instead of focusing on the Yangtze or Yellow River, China’s two major rivers, the history teacher showed them documentaries about Taiwan’s local history. Lee said he learned to appreciate the things around him.
That message was imprinted during his time in China, where he realized he was a foreigner. Lee now identifies himself as Taiwanese, stating that his ethnic identity, as a Chinese person, is distinct from his national, political identity as a person born in Taiwan.
“The real revolution, as history shows, must come from the ground,” Lee said. “I know how China democratizes and values human rights, it is the responsibility and work of the Chinese people.”
While Lee was able to come homeAnother prisoner, Li Meng-chu, is trapped in China, Li Meng-chu has been accused of being a spy by Chinese authorities and is now serving a two-year sentence as part of his sentence that deprived him of “political rights”.
Meng-chu in Hong Kong in 2019 during mass anti-government protests According to the semi-official Central News Agency, that shook the city. He disappeared after crossing the border into Shenzhen.
It is uncertain how many Taiwanese remain in Chinese prisons, as many families have chosen to remain silent in hopes of the release of their loved ones.
This is in stark contrast to the case of human rights activist Lee. Over the past five years, Lee’s wife, Ching-yu, worked with local non-profit organizations to raise awareness of her husband’s case. It also sought help from foreign democratic governments from the United States to the United Kingdom. Lee interviewed the press about whether she could send letters to her husband in prison and how his health was.
That relentless effort, both said, paid off.
“International support on the treatment of a political prisoner in China could actually be a tangible change,” said Lee Ching-yu.