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Lee Ming-che Taiwanese Political Prisoner in China: Yibee Huang Speaks Candidly Ep 161

By Felicia Lin

A note from Talking Taiwan host Felicia Lin:

To mark this year’s International Human Rights Day, I reached out to Yibee Huang, the CEO of Covenants Watch to talk about Lee Ming-che a Taiwanese activist who has been imprisoned in China since 2017.

December 10th is International Human Rights Day. It’s also an important day in Taiwan’s history and a turning point in Taiwan’s transition from authoritarianism to democracy. I’m referring to the Kaohsiung incident, also known as the Formosa Incident which began as a celebration of International Human Rights Day in 1979, but ended with a police crackdown and the arrest of prominent opposition leaders (The Kaohsiung Eight) who were tried in military court and sentenced to terms ranging from 12 year to life imprisonment. For more information about the Kaohsiung Incident visit the Related Links section below.

Covenants Watch is an NGO based in Taipei, Taiwan that is committed to promoting human rights and equality for all people. Despite Taiwan not being a member of the United Nations, Covenants Watch ensured that Lee Ming-che’s case was the first from Taiwan that was taken up by a UN special mechanism, namely the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances (the WGEID).

Yibee talked to me about Lee Ming-che’s case and other Taiwanese who have gone missing or been imprisoned in China.


About Covenants Watch

Covenants Watch (CW) is an NGO based in Taipei, Taiwan. It is committed to
promoting human rights and equality for all people. Excluded from international
society since the 1970s, the Taiwanese government has not been under the
supervision of the United Nations system.

Under these circumstances, CW strives to introduce a unique treaty review process that can hold the government accountable and ensures its domestic laws, policies and practices are aligned with international human rights standards.

In addition to its domestic activities, CW plays an increasing role on the international level by participating in the Special Procedures and the Universal Periodic Review of the UN Human Rights Council.


UPDATE: After 5 years, Lee Ming-che has been released from a Chinese prison and returned home to Taiwan. Read the Guardian’s interview of Lee Ming-che and his wife Ching-yu, Taiwanese activist Lee Ming-che: ‘I can breathe in the fresh air of freedom,’ by Helen Davidson in Taipei and Chi Hui Lin:


Here’s a little preview of what we talked about in this podcast episode:

  • The mission of Covenants Watch and Lee Ming-che’s connection to the organization
  • Lee Ming-che’s early life and background
  • How Ming-che’s political views changed and developed into a sense of Taiwanese identity
  • While in college Ming-che got involved in student-led social movement and pro-democracy activities organized by pro-DPP (Democratic Progressive Party) students, and met his future wife Ching-yu
  • The NGOs and organizations that Ming-che has worked with
  • His involvement with the DPP and Taiwan independence movement
  • What is known about the circumstances of his arrest
  • What Ming-che was doing in China, when he went missing on March 19, 2017
  • The March 24th press conference that Lee Ching-Yu (Lee Ming-che’s wife) and human rights groups organized to call upon the Chinese government to explain what happened to Ming-che
  • The timeline of when Chinese authorities first responded, admitted that Ming-che was under arrest, the date of Ming-che’s trial and sentencing
  • How Lee Ching-yu’s travel documents (Tai bao zheng/台胞證) were nullified when she tried to make plans to travel to Beijing in April 2017 to confront the Chinese government about what has happened to Ming-che
  • Why Ching-yu tattooed the words “Lee Ming-Che, I am proud of you” on her forearms
  • Ming-che’s confession which was revealed at his trial
  • Cases of human rights activists and lawyers who were tortured
  • Swedish NGO worker Peter Dahlin’s forced confession
  • How Ching-yu needs apply for special consent from the Chinese authorities each time she would like to travel to China
  • What a Tai bao zheng (台胞證) is
  • How Covenant Watch appealed to the UN’s Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances (WGEID) for help with Lee Ming-che’s case
  • What is the UN’s Universal Periodic Review
  • Why Ming-che’s was transferred from Chishan Prison in Hunan to Yancheng Prison in Hebei in late 2018 and what happened to him as a result
  • How the Chinese government has imposed an additional penalty of two years of deprivation of political rights on Lee Ming-che, which may be imposed at the end of his sentence in April 2022
  • How Ming-che has been treated in prison
  • Ching-yu last saw Ming-che in January 2020
  • The Write a Letter or Postcard to Ming-che campaign that was started on Ming-che’s first birthday after being imprisoned in China
  • The different campaigns that have been organized for Ming-che
  • The purpose behind letters and postcards written for Ming-che
  • The UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (aka The Nelson Mandela Rules)
  • Public support for Lee Ming-che in Taiwan
  • How Lee Ming-che was not able to attend his father’s funeral
  • What support Lee Ming-che has gotten from Taiwan’s government or President Tsai Ing-wen
  • The case of Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo
  • The national security legislation that was passed by China’s National People’s Congress in June 2020, criminalizes sedition in Hong Kong
  • The Safeguard Defenders report stating that 600 overseas Taiwanese have been extradited to China


Related Links:



Talking Taiwan has been Nominated for the 2021 Golden Crane Awards!

RSVP to Attend the AAP’s 2021 GOLDEN CRANE Podcast Awards Show:


News coverage about Lee Ming-che’s trial:


Civil Society Groups Call for Lee Ming-che’s Release, Close to Five Years After Imprisonment (an article from New Bloom):


December 24, 2018 statement from Lee Ching-yu, wife of Lee Ming-che:


Anyone interested in writing to Lee Ming-che can do so through the Facebook page that has been set up by the Lee Ming-che Rescue Team:


A Facebook page advocating on behalf of Lee Ming-che:


Campaign launched to send postcards to Lee Ming-che (an article from Taiwan News):


China: NGO worker prison visit denied for months: Lee Ming-che (an article from Amnesty International):


Covenants Watch website:


Covenants Watch on Facebook:


Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council:


Peter Dahlin, Detained Swedish Rights Worker, Said to Confess in China (an article from the New York Times):


“Please study the answers:” A Swedish activist’s first-hand account of how China extracted his televised “confession” (an article from Quartz):


Tai bao zheng (台胞證) (Mainland Travel Permit for Taiwan Residents aka Taiwan Compatriot Permit):


Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances (WGEID):


Basic facts about the UPR (Universal Period Review):


UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (aka The Nelson Mandela Rules):


New investigation exposes the PRC hunting Taiwanese overseas (from Safeguard Defenders):


China’s Hunt for Taiwanese Overseas (report by Safeguard Defenders):


Liu Xiaobo:


The “Kaohsiung Incident” of 1979 (an article from Taiwan Communique):


Formosa Incident (an article from OFT- Outreach for Taiwan):

About the Host

Felicia Lin is the Host and Producer of Talking Taiwan, a podcast which seeks to introduce you to interesting stories connected to Taiwan and the diverse individuals who make up Taiwan’s global community.

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