China to try Taiwanese activist for subversion

BEIJING • A Taiwanese activist who disappeared while on a visit to China will be put on open trial on Monday, according to the Chinese court authorities.

Lee Ming-che, a community college teacher and rights advocate, went missing on March 19 after entering Zhuhai city via Macau. The Chinese authorities later confirmed that he had been detained on suspicions of subverting state power, straining the already-tense ties between China and Taiwan.

Lee's trial will begin first thing on Monday morning, at the Intermediate People's Court of Yueyang city, in the central province of Hunan, a woman who answered the telephone at the court told Reuters yesterday.

The authorities have video-streamed or live-blogged more court proceedings in recent years as part of a push towards judicial transparency. But rights activists say that in sensitive cases, holding "open" hearings is a tool for the authorities to demonstrate state power and that usually the defendant has agreed to an outcome.

Photographs of a billboard announcement of the trial date and time, which circulated online yesterday, were genuine, the woman at the court confirmed.

The announcement said Lee would stand trial alongside another man, Peng Yuhua, who is suspected of the same crime. It is not clear who Peng is or what his relationship to Lee is, if any.

Lee's wife, Ms Lee Ching-yu, who has been campaigning for his release, was contacted earlier this week by a man who said he was her husband's lawyer. The man told her to go to China for the trial, said Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council on Thursday. The council said the Taiwan government would help her apply for travel documents and arrange for lawyers to go with her.

Rights group Amnesty International said in March that Lee had been supporting organisations and activists in China for years, but he last went to China for personal matters related to his mother-in-law's medical condition.

Lee's case has further strained relations between Taipei and Beijing, which have been difficult for decades but particularly tense since President Tsai Ing-wen, leader of Taiwan's independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party, took office last year. Beijing has since cut off official communications with Taipei.

China regards the island as a breakaway province and it has never renounced the use of force to bring it back under mainland control.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 09, 2017, with the headline 'China to try Taiwanese activist for subversion'. Print Edition | Subscribe