A Taiwanese human rights activist who served five years in jail in China said that international pressure and the tireless advocacy by his wife worked to ensure his safe return to Taiwan.
“With your help, I know that I was not excessively abused in China and was able to return home successfully after I was released,” Lee Ming-che said and thanked those involved in his rescue at a press conference Tuesday in his first public appearance since his release.
Lee was arrested by the Chinese regime in 2017 and charged with subversion of state power.
His arrest was China’s first criminal prosecution of a nonprofit worker since Beijing passed a law tightening controls over foreign non-governmental organizations in 2016.
It marked a turning point as the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) showed that it would not hesitate to prosecute Taiwanese individuals for political activism, regardless of the harm it would bring to cross-Strait relations.
It also raised public awareness in Taiwan of the tangible consequences of the CCP’s authoritarian rule on individuals.
The Chinese regime claims the island as its own, despite the fact that Taiwan is a de facto independent country, with its own military, democratically-elected government, and constitution.
Lee had given online lectures on Taiwan’s democratization and managed a fund for families of political prisoners in China that some friends had set up.
While Lee was able to come home, another prisoner, Lee Meng-chu, remains trapped in China. Lee Meng-chu has been accused of being a spy by Chinese authorities and is now serving the two years as part of his sentence which deprived him of “political rights.”
It’s uncertain how many Taiwanese are being held in Chinese prisons, as many families have chosen to remain quiet in the hopes of getting their loved ones’ release.
In the last five years, Lee’s wife, Ching-yu worked with local nonprofit organizations to raise awareness about her husband’s case.
She also sought help from foreign democratic governments from the United States to the United Kingdom.
Lee gave interviews in the press about whether she could send letters to her husband while in jail and how his health was.
That continued effort, both said, paid off.
“External, international support can truly have a concrete impact on the treatment of a political prisoner in China,” said Lee Ching-yu.