Taiwanese citizen Li Ming-che subject to inhumane treatment in Chinese prison! Freedom of speech is not a crime, release Li from China immediately!

Translator: Kuan-Wei Wu, Proofreaders: James Shyan-Tau Wu, Cheng-Hung Hsieh

Today, December 24, Christmas Eve, is the 645th day since Li Ming-che was subject to forced disappearance and arbitrary detention. While people begin to prepare for New Year festivities, Taiwanese citizen Li Ming-che is still detained in Chi-shan Prison in Hunan Province (China), unable to return to Taiwan.

The joint conference at the Legislative Yuan today is held by Li Ching-yu and the Rescue Li Ming-che Team, Taiwan Association for Human Rights, Human Rights Network for Tibet and Taiwan, Prison Watch, Judicial Reform Foundation, Youth Synergy Taiwan Foundation, Taiwan Forever Association, Legislator Yu Mei-nu, and New Power Party. Li Ching-yu, spouse of Li Ming-che, elaborated on her husband’s inhumane treatment seen during her prison visit, and urged allies to condemn such atrocities of the Chinese government, stressing that freedom of speech is not a crime, and the Chinese government should release Li Ming-che immediately.

Taiwanese citizen and human rights activist Li Ming-che was arrested for speech on internet and faced forced disappearance conducted by the Chinese government on March 19, 2017. On November 28, he was sentenced to five years in prison. After having her visit application rejected for several times, Li Ching-yu, spouse of Li Ming-che, finally managed to visit her husband on December 18.

During her visit, Li Ching-yu became aware that Li Ming-che had been transferred to Beijing prison for ten days. Li Ming-che himself did not know the date or reason of this transfer, and Li’s family had not been informed during this whole process, which violated the article 20 of the China Prison Act concerning custody informing procedure. When Li Ming-che was sent back to Chi-san Prison, his clothes and personal belongings were all disposed of and his bank account was temporarily frozen due to his “new” imprisonment status. Li was in a terrible shape since he was only served with spoiled food in the Chi-san Prison; the new administrative procedure made him unable to purchase other nutritious food with cash anymore. He has lost at least 30 kilos due to the spoiled diet provided by the prison.

Chiu E-Ling, Secretary-General of the Taiwan Association for Human Rights, stated that these mistreatments violate the Article 1 of the United Nations’ “Standard Minimum Act for the Treatment of Prisoners” concerning the principles and practices of treatment of inmates and management of institutions. Also violated is the article 19, which states that appropriate clothing should be provided according to the weather. Of hundreds of letters sent by the Rescue Team, none had reached Li-Ming-che, and private letters from Li Ching-yu was delayed for half of a year, while other prisoners had no problem receiving letters. This constitutes discrimination against Li Ming-che and violates the article 47 of the China Prison Law concerning communication rights and the article 2 of the United Nations’ “Standard Minimum Acts for the Treatment of Prisoners” against discrimination.

The books sent by Li Ching-Yu were legally published in China under censorship laws; most of them are merely history books pertaining to the history of the Warring States period and Han dynasty. However, none of them reached Li Ming-che because they were foreign books translated into simplified Chinese. The prison also broke the promise of appointing Li as the librarian of the prison library.

In Chinese prisons, families of inmates could contact them through a “Family Phone Card”. However, Li Ching-Yu was unable to apply for one because her Travel Permit for Taiwan Residents was revoked. She later applied for a Chinese mobile number, yet was never able to contact Li Ming-che. She later learned that Li Ming-che also need also to apply a phone card, but due to the prison’s claim that Li Ming-che’s Travel permit was unverifiable, his application was delayed indefinitely. It is absurd that the Chinese government could not verify its own official documents.

Tashi Tsering, chairperson of Human Rights Network for Tibet and Taiwan, sympathized with Li’s terrible condition, but also stated that such abuse is very commonplace. Many Tibetan political imprisoners were similarly subjected to torture in prison. There is no judicial fairness in China; for instance, a Uyghur merchant was sentenced to death only because of his pilgrimage to Mecca. Freedom of religion, freedom of speech, and human rights are a façade; the Taiwanese people should not trust the Chinese government, on account of the current situation in Tibet and Hong Kong.

Chen Huimin of Prison Watch also pointed that these are crucial elements of daily nutrition and medical care, to the medical parole with or without guardianship and control, to social connection and support eg. visits, communication, and gifts. Not only do we condemn the mistreatment upon Li Ming-che’s  in China, we also directly ask government of Taiwan stop emulating china’s prison system. the Taiwan-China judicial cooperation seems to be a scrap of paper. We urge the release of Li Ming-che to let him come back home and the attention on his imprisonment circumstances.

Yu-Fan Chen, CEO of Judicial Reform Foundation stated that even though the Chinese government ratified the United Nations Convention Against Torture, from Li Ming-che’s inhumane treatment of arbitrary transfer without   clothes and safe food, it is not wrong to say that Chinese is under façade of rule of law. The Chinese government cannot violate and disrespect the fundamental human rights like this. Whenever Taiwan and China have cultural or political exchange from local to central governmental level, we should not forget a Taiwanese citizen is being tortured and mistreated. Solemnly Chen pledged that Taiwanese people and those who are concern about the condition of Li Ming-che to engage as writing postcards to prison and express our concern to the Chinese government and people.

Luna Liu of Youth Synergy Taiwan Foundation paraphrased from German Foreign Ministry’s conviction stated that the rule of law is the basis of all free societies” at the issue on the detainment of Canadian citizens’ on December 23. During the US–Sino Trade Wars, the hardline actions of the Chinese government upon the state citizens including three Canadian citizens who were subjected to force disappearance like Li Ming-che and other two hundreds unknown under illegitimate custody. More than thousands of Taiwanese citizens were facing forced disappearance under the Chinese government. Sophie Richardson, the director of Chinese branch of Human Rights Watch urged that “It is time for new standards to reverse these highly abnormal relationships with China. Forty years into China's ‘reform era’, Beijing has made clear it's not moving on democracy, a free press, or an independent legal system, though courageous people continue to push for these at considerable personal risk. If powerful outside voices mindlessly engage, they not only stab these brave people in the back - they may also find themselves obliged to dance to the tune of a highly repressive government.” on December 23.

Hung Chung-yen, Deputy CEO of Taiwan Forever Association deputy claims that the Chinese government constantly violates all sorts of international principles including the International Human Rights Treaties by the United Nations, even its own domestic laws, which will in the end jeopardize its international and domestic creditability and also legitimacy. If the Chinese government applied Sesame Credit on its own, the result would be pretty unsatisfactory. On matters of judicial cooperation and public health, it also ignores certain regulations  and unwilling to stay transparent and cooperate on equal terms. The Taiwanese people should never trust any promises made by the Chinese government. By far Chinese government is unwilling to provide basic humane treatment for Li Ming-che compared to other Chinese and foreign citizens. Such mistreatments have proved its illegitimate measures on Li Ming-che and improper governance in China. At last, even though Li Ming-che was under terrible detainment, he still pays attention on constitutional democracy, rule of law, and human rights in Taiwan, including the issues of referendum and LGBT rights. And hence, I sincerely call for our people to concern Li Ming-che as well as he concerns our rights and society.

Kaohsiung City Councilor Huang Jie (New Power Party) stated that the treatment of Li Ming-che is inhumane and violates the human rights. Li is an ordinary citizen like us who happens to be in contact with Chinese citizens, but was subjected to forced disappearance, detained, judged and even jailed and tortured without due process. Who can guarantee that any Taiwanese citizen would not be the next Li Ming-che? We are different from the People’s Republic of China, because we uphold freedom of speech and thought, and esteem human rights and democracy. Not only we reproach the actions of the Chinese government and urge the immediate release of Li Ming-che but also demand our government to stand up to call for Li and provide necessary help to his family.

Legislator Yu Mei-nu claims that the suppression of human rights in China since Xi Ching-ping came into power has upheaved to dire mire and caused concern and condemnation from the international community including the European Union and the United States. The European Parliament has passed resolutions concerning Li Ming-che and urged his immediate release. By September 2018, the European Parliament’s EU-China Policy Report also criticizes the totalitarian regime of the Chinese government and the case of Li Ming-che. Furthermore, the UN Human Rights Council's Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances also pertains to Li’s situation.

The Universal Periodic Review by the Human Rights Council stated that, “since the second UPR review, the Chinese authorities had intensified the crackdown on both local and foreign activist and human rights defenders through arbitrary arrests, prosecutions, and imprisonment under vaguely worded national security provisions on Chinese territory and abroad”. The severe condition of Li Ming-che in prison revealed by his spouse Li Ching-yu on her visit has violated the United Nations’ “Standard Minimum Act s for the Treatment of Prisoners” (advised in the year 2015 and with the Chinese participation) and the China Prison Law (ratified in 2013).Hence, we condemn the actions of the Chinese government. As long as Li Ming-che is under custody, we will continue our condemnation; As long as Li Ming-che is under detainment the distrust and antagonism against the Chinese government will grow and  the hostility from the West will only intensify.

After the UPR Review on China on November 6 2018 and later in March 2019 the Assembly would announce the outcome. NGOs in Taiwan would also cooperate with international human rights organizations on announcement and submission on Special Rapporteur on Rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, especially the case of Human right activist Li Ming-che who was detained and sentenced by the Chinese government due to his discussion group with the Chinese internet users.


Li Ching-yu’s talk in press conference (December 24 2018)

Let us “continue” writing to Li Ming-Che

translator: Chen Si-Ying

This is my second time to hold press conference for Li Ming-Che on Christmas Eve. However, this time, is the “angry and skinny” Li Ming-Che in Chishan prison who asked me to write down every word he said and revealed his condition to the world in this conference. Last year, my NGO fellows in Taiwan jointly launched “Let us write to LeiMing-Che”, because he is just the same as the most miserable political imprisoners during the White Terror in Taiwan. That is, those evacuated to Taiwan with Chiang Kai-shek but jailed in the name of espionage, alone with no families and no help in Taiwan. Li Ming-Che is just like them in China’s prison; no family, no help, alone in a foreign land, behind bars, and still isolated after one year. Whenever every imprisoner of the People’s Republic of China would receive letters from families and friends, regardless who they are. Except Li Ming-Che. So far Li Ming-Che has only received letters from me and his mother. And every letter from me has belated for half a year to his hand, and until now none of replies sent from Li Ming-Che in imprison. Whenever every imprisoner of the People’s Republic of China could be monthly visited by own families. Except Li Ming-Che. It is only because I am a foreigner who need to be ‘granted’ to enter China.

Not only every time my visa on arrival must be held by the national security in China, and my visit to Chishan prison is under “full surveillance”, but also the entry is likely to be rejected with absurd excuse of “prison visit system upgrade”. I could not see my husband for three months. Whenever every imprisoner of the People’s Republic of China could contact with families through “Familial Phone Card” via application. Except Li Ming-Che. Only because he is a foreigner.

Chishan Prison told Li Ming-Che that the telecom replied, “according to the state regulation, the user must register with real name through application of China Telecom for fixed or mobile phone, and therefore must provide with authenticated certificate of residence, registry information of real identification, and onsite ID photo. Mr. Li is registered as Taiwanese and unidentifiable, so it is not available for the user. We are sorry for inconvenience!”

When the Chinese government claims to the world that Li Ming-Che’s speeches in Taiwan (Republic of China) is under the control of the People’s Republic of China; in the meantime, the government refused his application for communication access due to his Taiwanese identification. Li Ming-Che is discriminated against his equal rights on family call. None of these above is privileged but equal for every imprisoner in China. Except Li Ming-Che, a Taiwanese, a foreigner, who is deprived of these rights.

Let alone the prison repeatedly violates the Chinese government’s regulations:

  1. Chishan Prison violates the 8511 regulation by the Chinese government. As the imprison labor system of “8 hours of work per day; 5 days of work, 1 day of education, and 1 day of rest per week”. Li Ming-Che works more than 10 hours per day and no rest day. The so-called labor education in prison is nothing but sweat factory.
  1. Chishan Prison violates the publication regulation by the Chinese government. Every book I send to Li Ming-Che in prison is published in simplified Chinese and approved by the Chinese government with censorship. Those books which Li likes are only about histories millenniums and centuries ago, or philosophical thoughts centuries ago. The books are legally published, but are still prohibited by Chishan Prison. As a political imprisoner, not only your body but also your mind are under control.
  2. Chishan prison froze Li Ming-Che’s personal account due to transfer and other administrative procedure. For unknown reasons, Li Ming-Che has been transferred twice. His warm clothes are disposed during the transfer and his personal account for allowance is hence frozen. Chishan prison provides nothing but spoiled alimentation. Li Ming-Che used to purchase own food on his personal account, but is now unable with his frozen account. Li Ming-Che became skinny and is still unable to purchase warm clothes in the 5-degree-Celcius Chishan prison. The prison rejects my warm clothes to Li Ming-Che for the reason that “purchasable goods in prison are not allowed to be sent by families.” The weather forecast says it will snow in Yuanjiang city this week.  After one year, on this Christmas Eve, Li Ming-Che is still in foreign prison and isolated. So, on this Christmas Eve, I again plead to ask people to continue sending postcards to Li Ming-Che.

This postcard may not reach Li Ming-Che, but will reach the China’s prison, and to the Chinese government. Sending postcards to him persistently not only shows our support to Li Ming-Che but also let the Chinese government and prison understand that we all wait for Li Ming-Che’s homecoming, never forget him or give up. How long the Chinese government detains Li Ming-Che and how it mistreats him are in the eye of the world.

At last, on the same Christmas Eve, I want to quote from Li Ming-Che. During every brief thirty minutes of visit, the most important thing is to inform Li Ming-Che about the free world, including the results of this referendum in Taiwan.  Because the Taiwanese society has jointly bullied the LGBTQ groups, 9 cases of suicide and 2 of suicide attempt, and other 23 bullying cases were reported. I want to say to my LGBTQ friends that you are not alone. There is one Taiwanese behind bars in China who wants me to tell you that “the deficient regulation on referendum cannot deprive your rights to marry. On May 24 2019, please hold a family with the one you love by the rights granted by the Council of Grand Justices’ Constitutional Interpretation No. 748. 

I truly appreciate for those whom support Li Ming-Che.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Li Ching-Yu

On the 646th day since Li Ming-Che was lost