Wife of Detained Taiwan Activist Hits Out at Beijing Amid Growing Tensions

taiwan-lee-09272017.jpg Lee Ching-yu (C) calls on China to release her husband, detained Taiwan NGO worker Lee Ming-cheh, at a news conference in Taiwan, Sept. 27.

The wife of detained Taiwan NGO worker Lee Ming-cheh has called on the Chinese Communist Party to be allowed to visit him, amid growing tensions between Beijing and the democratic island.

Democracy activist Lee Ming-cheh, who pleaded guilty to charges of "incitement to subvert state power" at his trial on Sept. 11, was the first foreign national to be held under new laws governing NGO activity in China.

Lee stood trial on Sept. 11 alongside Chinese national Peng Yuhua at the Intermediate People's Court in Hunan's Yueyang city.

But Lee Ching-yu said her husband has been deprived of basic legal guarantees, and called on Beijing to allow her to visit him.

"[Lee's detention" didn't comply with any law or procedure and violates human rights conventions," she told journalists in Taiwan. "The right to family visits has been a fundamental and inalienable right from ancient times."

"[Chinese authorities] failed to notify family members, denied them the right to visit, and ignored the requests of a civilized society," she said, adding: "All we can do is pledge to never give up."

Lee Ming-cheh's detention on arrival at the port city of Zhuhai on March 19 came after he gave online lectures on Taiwan’s democratization process, and managed a fund for families of political prisoners under the ruling Chinese Communist Party.

The furor over his detention and confession to "crimes" linked to activities carried out in the separate jurisdiction of Taiwan has fueled fears that Beijing is seeking to extend its influence to the island's vibrant political life.

United Front tactics

Earlier this week, a cross-straits music festival at the prestigious National Taiwan University was halted after student protesters fearful over Beijing's influence were beaten by unidentified assailants believed to be working for pro-Beijing groups under the Communist Party's United Front strategy.

In Beijing, Taiwan Affairs Office spokesman Ma Xiaoguang denied the concert was linked to United Front work, however.

"The people who are trying to politicize this event are perhaps lacking in self-confidence, and are trying to push a one-sided ideology," Ma told journalists. "This notion that this is part of United Front work, a sort of cultural united front, has no basis in fact."

Ma went on to hit out at Taiwan premier William Lai, who serves under pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) president Tsai Ing-wen, who said the island and its 23 million inhabitants have all the attributes of a sovereign nation.

"Taiwan is an inseparable part of Chinese territory, has never been a country and can never become a country," Ma said.

"The mainland side resolutely opposes any form of 'Taiwan independence' words or action, and will never allow the historical tragedy of national separation to repeat itself. The consequences will be reaped for engaging in Taiwan independence separatism," he added, without elaborating.

China's Kuomintang (KMT) nationalist government, then known as the Republic of China under Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek, relocated to Taiwan in 1949 after losing a civil war to Mao Zedong's communists on the mainland.

The island began a transition to democracy following the death of Chiang's son, President Chiang Ching-kuo, in January 1988, starting with direct elections to the legislature in the early 1990s and culminating in the first direct election of a president, Lee Teng-hui, in 1996.

Broad support for self rule

Recent opinion polls indicate that there is broad political support for de facto self-rule in Taiwan, where the majority of voters identify as Taiwanese rather than Chinese.

But while the Chinese Communist Party has never ruled the island, Beijing regards it as part of Chinese territory and has threatened to invade if Taiwan seeks formal independence.

Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council said it did not matter what Beijing said, it was an "objective reality" that the Republic of China was a sovereign state.

"Taiwan's future and the development of relations across the Strait will be jointly decided by Taiwan's 23 million people," it said.

International law expert Soong Cheng-en said Beijing's reach has become bolder and bolder when pursuing people whose opinions it doesn't like beyond its own borders.

"China is using every legal means to suppress freedom of speech, and to export its reign of terror to Taiwan, Hong Kong, and the rest of the world," Soong told reporters. "Taiwan and Hong Kong are right in the front line of this oppression."

"Without international support standing with us and curbing China's behavior, we will see them using criminal law to suppress the freedom of speech of other countries' citizens," Soong warned. "It will only be a matter of time before they start coming after anyone in the world with a dissenting opinion."

Reported by Wen Yuqing for RFA's Cantonese Service, and by Hwang Chun-mei and Hsia Hsiao-hwa for the Mandarin Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.

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