China Flexes Controversial New Law as Taiwanese Activist Pleads Guilty to Subversion

13-Sep-2017 Intellasia | Time | 6:00 AM Print This Post

A Taiwanese activist has pleaded guilty to subverting state power in China’s first prosecution of a non-profit worker on criminal charges since Beijing passed a law tightening controls over foreign non-governmental organisations.

“I spread articles that maliciously attacked the Communist Party of China, China’s existing system and China’s government,” the activist, Lee Ming-che, told the court in the central Chinese city of Yueyang. Lee said he also organised people and wrote articles “intended to subvert the state’s power.”

Subversion of state power is a vaguely defined charge often used by authorities to muzzle dissent and imprison critics.

Lee’s wife, Lee Ching-yu, had warned that he might be pressured into pleading guilty. China’s wide-ranging crackdown on civil society has featured a string of televised “confessions” believed to have been coerced from human rights activists accused of plots to overthrow the political system.

“I want to ask my fellow countrymen for their understanding if they see Lee Ming-che do or say anything unbearable in court outside of his free will,” Lee Ching-yu told reporters over the weekend before leaving Taiwan so she could be at the trial. “This is just the Chinese government being adept at the performance.”

Security was tight at the Yueyang City Intermediate People’s Court, with barricades on the streets, dozens of security personnel patrolling the perimeter and reporters ordered to leave the area.

Lee Ming-che, 42, has conducted online lectures on Taiwan’s democratisation and managed a fund for families of political prisoners in China. He cleared immigration in the semi-autonomous Chinese territory of Macau on March 19 but never showed for a planned meeting with a friend later that day.

Amnesty International and other rights organisations have called for his immediate release.

The new law says foreign NGOs must not endanger China’s national security and ethnic unity, and subjects non-profit groups to close police supervision. It is seen as an attempt to clamp down on perceived threats to the ruling Communist Party’s control.

Relations between Taiwan and China have been near an all-time low since the election of Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen, whose Democratic Progressive Party has advocated Taiwan’s formal independence. China cut off contacts with Taiwan’s government in June, five months after Tsai was elected.


Category: Taiwan

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