CARTOON: Reactions to Taiwanese Activist Lee Ming-che’s ‘Sham Trial’

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Originally published by The News Lens on September 13, 2017

Taiwanese activist Lee Ming-che (李明哲) on Sept. 11 appeared on trial at the Hunan Province, Yueyang City Intermediate People’s Court. He had been missing in China for 176 days.

Lee, along with Peng Yuhua (彭于華) from China, was accused of subversion of state power. The Taiwanese activist confessed to “spreading malicious articles and speech attacking the current Chinese Communist Party and government” and “writing articles that were intended to defame the system and subvert state power.” The trial ended with the court saying it would issue a verdict on a later date and Lee remains in custody.

This is the first prosecution of a nonprofit worker on criminal charges since Beijing passed a law tightening controls over foreign non-governmental organizations. Members of Taiwan Human Rights and Cultural Association have planned for a “Confession of Crime” event, and the Facebook event pagereads, “Whoever makes a comment criticized China government on social media, either in public or private group chat, may just have offended China government and will be formally arrested on a charge of ‘subverting state power.’ If you ever criticized Chinese communist party before, you should plead guilty ASAP.”

The campaigners plan to print out “criminal charges” from the crime confessions. They will be sticking the printed papers on to the Consulate General of the People’s Republic of China in New York during the parade of “Taiwan for UN and the pursuit of releasing Lee, Ming-Cheh” on Sept.16, 2017.

The following are responses to Lee’s trial from Taiwan, China and the international community.


Taiwan’s Premier William Lai (賴清德) said, “Lee works at a non-profit organization as a human rights advocate. There is no way he could subvert the Chinese government. I felt sorry for Lee being forced to confess at a trial in a manner nobody could accept.” He said he has called on the Chinese authorities to quickly release Lee and ordered agencies to prioritize work to facilitate his return to Taiwan. – Taipei Times

Judicial Reform Foundation executive director Kao Jung-chih (高榮志) said the court proceedings were scripted, and everybody, from the judge and prosecutors to the lawyers and defendant, were “staring at scripts, reading,” indicating that “everything was prearranged.” Kao said that the timing of the proceedings was deliberately set for Monday to stop Lee’s wife, Lee Ching-yu (李凈瑜), from traveling to Geneva, Switzerland, on Sept. 10 and reporting on her husband’s case at a meeting of the UN working group on arbitrary detention and enforced disappearances. – Taipei Times

When asked if the case of Lee has made Taiwanese people more resentful towards China, Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) said “Every time Beijing complains that they have already yield so much to Taiwan and want to appease to Taiwanese citizens, Taiwanese only move further away from them and the case of Lee is a prime example. The values between Taiwan and China are too far apart, something Beijing needs to reflect on.” – China Times 

Lee Ming-che’s case was full of tension, but should not be simply perceived as political drama. Under President Tsai, the government needs to at least open communication between Taiwan and China, so when a similar case appears, the appropriate communication tools will be in place. – United Daily News Editorial

It is escalation, and something that is much, much bigger than Lee himself, who unwisely fell into the trap and was made an example of. … Lee’s show trial is also a clear demonstration of the failure of Western powers to modernize the legal system in China. … Lee case was also a trap for the Tsai Ing-wen government in Taiwan … a lose-lose situation …Unless the international community stiffens its spine and is willing, in concert, to impose costs on China for its misbehavior, all else will fail. – Taiwan Sentinel


China’s Taiwan Affairs Office spokesman, An Fengshan (安峰山), said “China is a country under the rule of law, anyone in China needs to obey the law and social order, any law violation will lead to legal action. Any attempt to use Lee’s case for political operation, to influence or slander Chinese legal processes, or to attack the Chinese government and law system will be futile.” – Storm Media

All persons are equal before the law. Lee is a Taiwan resident, it is reasonable he does not understand Chinese laws, but he should not be free from it simply because he doesn’t understand it. If you don’t understand Chinese law and don’t respect it, Chinese law will teach you how to understand it and respect it. Unlike in Taiwan, “International power” does not evoke fear in China. China has its own laws to govern NGOs, and respects its own laws. – Huan Qiu Opinion


Lee’s identity as a Taiwanese advocate of democracy and human rights may have put him in a particularly vulnerable position; he is the only Taiwanese person ever to be charged with the crime of subverting state power in China. – Quartz Media

The language the two co-defendants used to confess their crimes sounded rehearsed, according to Patrick Poon, a China researcher at Amnesty International. The “language they used was so much like the Chinese government’s”, he said, calling it a “sham trial.” – Central News Agency

Frances Eve, researcher for the charity Chinese Human Rights Defenders , said the trial’s “phoney transparency” was an attempt to deflect attention from the serious denial of Lee’s due process rights. “He was held for months in a secret location and had already ‘confessed’ before the trial, according to state media. There is a strong likelihood that he was tortured to force a confession,” Eve said. – Radio Television Hong Kong

Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein of United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights said, “Many more are in various forms of deprivation of liberty on questionable grounds, without any independent oversight mechanism [in China],” including Li Ming-che. “I am particularly concerned about action taken against defence lawyers. I commend China’s emphasis on the contribution of development to the enjoyment of all human rights …” – United Nations Human Rights Office of the Higher Commissioner Media Center

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