“If you see Lee Ming-che do or say anything… in court not out of his free will, please be understanding.” said Lee Ching-yu, the wife of the Taiwanese democracy activist detained in China. “This is just the Chinese government… making someone confess.”
On September 11, a court in China’s Hunan province followed through on a detention and prosecution riddled with violations of fair trial rights, including incommunicado detention and denial of defense counsel of choice. The court tried Lee and Chinese activist Peng Yuhua on charges of “subversion of state power.” While Lee’s enforced disappearance on the mainland in March was widely covered by the international media, Peng’s arrest only became known when the court published a notice announcing the date of their joint trial four days before it began.
During the trial, prosecutors accused the two defendants of publishing “speeches defaming and attacking governmental organs and the state system,” and running online chat groups and an organization that attempted to “subvert state power” and “overthrow the state’s basic political system.” But the prosecution presented no evidence suggesting the pair’s activities were anything but acts of peaceful expression and association. Lee’s government-assigned lawyer asserted in court that his supposed client’s online speech critical of the Chinese government constituted “inciting subversion” and had “the intention of overthrowing the state power.”
The trial was also the first time in six months that Lee’s wife has seen him – he had been denied family visits. In April, Chinese authorities cancelled Lee Ching-yu’s travel permit to prevent her from looking for her husband. After the trial, under the watchful eyes of the police, Lee Ming-che told his wife not to speak out in Taiwan. Lee Ching-yu later criticized the trial for being “political theater.”
Since President Xi Jinping came to power in March 2013, Chinese authorities have detained a number of citizens of other countries – in or outside of China – for their work helping Chinese human rights activists or for speaking critically of the Chinese leaders or policies. Beijing’s arbitrary arrests of and denials of due process to non-citizens pose a threat to human rights globally. Foreign governments should speak out forcefully against this practice and call for the immediate and unconditional release of Lee and Peng.