Chinese authorities have released footage of video confessions from a Taiwanese activist on trial for attempting to subvert the Beijing government. His wife, meanwhile, refused to recognize the court’s authority.
Lee Ming-che, a community college teacher known for his pro-democracy and rights activism, went missing on a trip to mainland China in March. China’s authorities later confirmed that he was being investigated on suspicion of damaging national security.
In video clips which were released on social media by the Yueyang City Intermediate People’s Court, in Hunan province, Lee said he accepted the charge of subversion and expressed regret.
“I spread some attacks, theories that maliciously attacked and defamed China’s government, the Chinese Communist Party and China’s current political system, and I incited the subversion of state power,” he said, referring to comments he had posted in an instant messaging group.
Lee stood trial alongside Chinese national Peng Yuhua, 37, who confessed to creating subversive instant messaging groups and founding an organisation that sought to promote political change in China. Lee had been involved in both, Peng said in testimony released on video by the court.
“I spread some attacks, theories that maliciously attacked and defamed China’s government, the Chinese Communist Party and China’s current political system, and I incited the subversion of state power”
Taiwanese rights activist Xiao Yiming travelled to the mainland for the trial, but said he was barred from entering the courtroom.
Xiao suspected Peng was being used by authorities to help strengthen the state’s case against Lee, as he was unaware of any previous connection between the two men.
“Taiwan has democratic freedoms and Lee has the right to share his ideas,” Xiao told Reuters by phone, describing Lee as a “prisoner of conscience”.
Lee Ching-yu, Lee’s wife, attended the hearing. Before leaving for China she had asked that Lee’s supporters forgive him for anything he might say that disappoints them during the hearing.
She wrote a letter to her husband on Monday morning before the trial began, photographs of which were seen by Reuters. “I do not recognise this court. I also did not hire any lawyers,” she wrote.
Releasing videos and transcripts of court hearings has become increasingly common in China as part of a push for greater judicial transparency and oversight.
But rights activists say that in sensitive cases holding “open” trials allows authorities to demonstrate state power and deter others, with statements and verdicts usually having been agreed in advance.
Ties between Beijing and Taipei have been strained since President Tsai Ing-wen, leader of the independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party, took office in Taiwan last year.
Tsai’s refusal to state that Taiwan and China are part of one country has angered Beijing, as have her comments about human rights on the mainland.
Beijing maintains that the island of Taiwan is part of China and has never renounced the use of force to bring it under its control, while proudly democratic Taiwan has shown no interest in being governed by the mainland’s Communist Party rulers.