Today, 19 March 2020, marks the third anniversary of the arbitrary detention of Taiwanese human rights defender Li Ming-Che by the Chinese authorities. Since his arbitrary arrest, Li Ming-Che’s rights have continued to be violated while in detention. We, the undersigned national and international organisations, strongly condemn these violations and call on the Government of China to release him and end the use of arbitrary detention and enforced disappearances against activists and human rights defenders. Li Ming-Che is currently detained in Chi-Shan prison, Hunan Province.
Li Ming-Che worked for the promotion of civil and political rights in Taiwan and in China. Prior to his arrest, he actively supported activists and civil society organisations in China, sharing the experience of Taiwan’s democratic process and encouraging online donations to the families of jailed Chinese dissidents.
He was in China for a personal visit three years ago, when his family lost contact with him. Ten days later, the Government revealed that Li Ming-Che had been detained by the security police, and was being kept in an undisclosed location. In a hearing in September 2017, he pleaded guilty to charges of ‘subverting state power’ through promoting ‘Western-style democracy’, a confession that his wife claimed it was made under duress. Two months later, he was sentenced to five years’ imprisonment on these charges, the first case of a Taiwanese activist convicted for ‘subverting state power’ in China.
Throughout his imprisonment, Li Ming-Che has continued to face inhumane treatment. He has been prohibited from contact with outsiders, beyond his wife and mother. Despite legal provisions allowing monthly family visits, his wife Li Ching-Yu’s requests to enter the country and visit him have been denied numerous times. In 2018, he was moved and transferred to another prison, without clear explanations and without notice to his relatives. Upon his return to the Chi-Shan prison, his winter clothes were taken away and his prison account frozen, preventing him from buying food. Li Ching-Yu reported that he has also been restricted from sending letters, and from trying to contact his family. Several books and letters sent by family and supporters were also not delivered. In September 2019, he was also prohibited from attending his father’s funeral, despite his wife’s pledge that she would remain in prison in his stead.
There are reports that Li Ming-Che has been put into a forced-labour mandatory programme called “reform through labour”, which requires him to work ten hours a day without any rest days. Li Ching-Yu reports that her husband’s physical and mental health have deteriorated over the course of his detention.
The undersigned organisations condemn these acts, which amounts to torture and cruel and inhuman treatment, and strongly urge the Government of China to release Li Ming-Che. His continued detention proves China’s disregard for international human rights norms. The undersigned organisations continue to call international civil society, and the international community to stand in solidarity with Li Ming-Che, and to push for an end of the Chinese Government’s use of reprisals against human rights defenders.
Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)
FIDH – International Federation for Human Rights
Taiwan Association for Human Rights
World Organisation against Torture (OMCT)