Taiwanese activist may have been convicted in secret: NGOs

2017/10/02 19:53:11
Taiwanese activist may have been convicted in secret: NGOs

Taipei, Oct. 2 (CNA) China may have reached a guilty verdict in secret in the case against Taiwanese human rights activist Lee Ming-che (李明哲), who was indicted for "subversion of state power," civil groups said in Taipei on Monday.

The groups said such a verdict would deprive Lee of his right to appeal, and they urged Taiwan's government to actively negotiate Lee's rights with Beijing, especially since, in their minds, China does not have jurisdiction over the case.

At a hearing on the case at the Yueyang City Intermediate People's Court in Hunan Province on Sept. 11, Lee pleaded guilty to the charge, expressed regret for the harm he brought to Chinese society and apologized for his behavior.

That Lee made a public confession of his "wrongdoing" was widely predicted, as it followed a pattern seen in other cases involving foreign activists and Taiwanese celebrities.

Under the Criminal Procedure Law of the People's Republic of China, the court must deliver a ruling no later than two months after accepting a case, which would be Oct. 9 in this instance.

But it has yet to set a date for the ruling, and with China on a national holiday from Oct. 1 to 8, there is no time left to announce a date, said Hsiao I-ming (蕭逸民), head of the Appeals Center under the Taiwan-based Judicial Reform Foundation, at a press conference.

"The court may have ruled on the case in secret," he said.

Hsiao called on Taiwan's government to find out whether the court has in fact reached a verdict.

"If that is the case, the government must talk to China to ensure that Lee can exercise his right to appeal. If not, the government should demand that a verdict be announced publicly in court with Lee's family in attendance," Hsiao said.

It was not the first time the civil groups involved in the campaign to rescue Lee have criticized the government for its "inaction."

Yibee Huang (黃怡碧), chief executive officer of Covenants Watch, questioned what actions government agencies have taken to help Lee other than to express their positions through documents delivered to their Chinese counterparts, which have not elicited any response.

Previously an administrator at Wenshan Community College in Taipei, Lee had been promoting Western-style multi-party democracy on various social media and messaging platforms, including Chinese platform Sina Weibo, before he was arrested on March 19 when entering China from Macau.

Huang said that what Lee had been doing in Taiwan was a matter of exercising his freedom of speech, embodying the vitality of Taiwan's civil society, "which is something that we should be proud of."

If Lee were found guilty, it would set the precedent that anyone deemed by China to be critical of its government would be arrested, Huang said, likening Beijing to the notorious Taiwan Garrison Command (警總), the unit in charge of suppressing activities viewed as promoting democracy during the Martial Law period.

"That would erode the foundation of our democratic society. Has the Taiwanese government said anything about this?" Huang asked.

Democratic Progressive Party lawmaker Yu Mei-nu (尤美女) and New Power Party lawmaker Hsu Yung-ming (徐永明) took part in the press conference at the Legislative Yuan to show support for the position previously stated by the groups that China holds no jurisdiction over Lee's case.

The Taiwan Association for Human Rights, along with other groups, said in a statement immediately after the hearing on Sept. 11 that Lee's case did not fall under China's jurisdiction, citing Article 8 of China's Criminal Code.

The article states that the code does not apply to cases in which foreigners committed crimes against China in places outside China where the activities are legal.

Based on that, the groups contended that China arrested Lee in part to manifest its claim that Taiwan is part of its territory, a claim most Taiwanese disagree with.

Yu said, however, that China should not have detained and tried Lee because Taiwan and China are independent political entities and not subordinate to each other.

"I urge the government to declare this position. China has extended the scope of suppression that includes not only its dissidents but also Taiwanese people. If this continues, any Taiwanese visiting China could end up like Lee," she said.

(By Shih Hsiu-chuan)
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