The wife of a Taiwanese NGO worker and human rights activist detained in China says she will travel to Beijing to seek the release of her husband and has called on the international community for assistance.

Lee Ming-che (李明哲), 42, is being detained in China by a branch of the state security police. He was reported missing after flying from Taipei to Macau on March 19.

His wife, Lee Ching-yu (李凈瑜), told a press conference in Taipei this afternoon that her husband has a higher chance of being released if more international attention is given to his case.

“I’m going to Beijing because I don’t know where my husband is, so I will go to the capital,” she told reporters. “Every second is torture for my husband, I need to take action. I cannot stay in the same place,” she said.

Lee Ching-yu will not acknowledge anything Lee says during his imprisonment because she believes his statements may be made under pressure from Chinese authorities.

She said she would not hire a lawyer at this stage, citing that China’s legal system is behind international standards. Lee added that she knows from Taiwan’s experience under martial law, known as the White Terror, that a legal defense is “useless” when a justice system does not meet international standards.

She says the Taiwan government will do what it needs to do in her husband's case and that a country would never abandon one of its people. However, she believed she needed to take personal action.

Who is Lee Ming-che?

Lee is a former secretary for Taiwan’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) executive in Taoyuan. He is an NGO worker who frequently works with human rights lawyers in China. He works at the Taipei Wenshan District Community College.

Part of his role was researching and writing about transitional justice and Taiwan’s White Terror era.

According to a colleague, Lee previously held weekly conversations on the Chinese messaging and social media platform WeChat. His hour-long talks focused on human rights and democracy and Taiwan’s experience in developing democracy and transitional justice, Cheng said. His audience was mainly Chinese.

It is understood Lee's WeChat account was blocked from using the group chat function in 2016. He has since been using a new account.

He also sent books to friends in China who were particularly interested in democracy and transitional justice.

Timeline of Lee’s detainment

March 19: Lee boarded a flight from Taipei to Macau. He was reportedly traveling a hospital in Guangdong, southern China, for a medical consultation for his sick mother-in-law.

March 20: Reports emerge that friends and family had been unable to contact Lee since he left Taipei. Officials at the Gongbei Customs in Zhuhai, China, refused to answer questions from Radio Free Asia on whether Lee had been blacklisted by Chinese authorities.

March 21: Taiwan’s Straits Exchange Foundation told The News Lens officials were using all available channels to try and locate Lee, including Taiwanese businesspeople working in China, the Mainland Affairs Council and local Chinese authorities. No further information was immediately available.

March 27: Lee's wife, Lee Ching-yu (李淨瑜), is informed by the Taiwan government that Lee is being detained in China by a branch of China’s security police.

March 29: China’s Taiwan Affairs Office spokesperson Ma Xiaoguang (馬曉光) confirms Lee is being held for “involvement in a threat to national security.” Lee’s supporters, including his wife, several Taiwan legislators and human rights advocates hold a press conference in Taipei to call for Lee’s release.


Editor: Olivia Yang