November 29, 2017 / 3:50 AM / a year ago

Beijing warns Taipei against hyping up China's jailing of Taiwanese activist

BEIJING (Reuters) - China on Wednesday said that any attempt to hype up its decision to jail a Taiwanese rights activist for subversion would be futile, after Taiwan’s ruling political party labeled the result “unacceptable”.

Supporters form the words "China! Free Li" during a protest to urge for the release of Taiwan human rights advocate Lee Ming-che, also known as Li Ming-Che, who according to videos of his hearing released by Chinese authorities confessed to attempting to subvert the Beijing government, in Taipei, Taiwan September 17, 2017. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu

A Chinese court on Tuesday jailed Li Ming-che, Taiwanese community college lecturer and human rights non-governmental worker, for five years for subverting Chinese state power.

Li was tried alongside a mainland activist, Peng Yuhua, who received a seven year sentence for the same charge. Both were found guilty of attempting to promote political reform in China through discussions of democracy in social media chatrooms.

Taiwan’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) said the result was “totally unacceptable” and called for Beijing to return Li to Taiwan. It is not a crime for Li to share his opinions about democratic freedoms with friends, they said.

China’s Taiwan Affairs Office spokesman Ma Xiaoguang told reporters at a regular news briefing: “Any attempts to hype up the case for political ends or to instigate opposition between compatriots across the straits will all be futile.”

Although Taiwan and Beijing should have mutual respect for each other’s social systems and development paths, Taiwan cannot “impose” its political ideas on the mainland or use the cover of democratic freedoms to break Chinese law, Ma said.

Ties between Beijing and the self-ruled island of Taiwan have been frosty since Taiwan’s Tsai Ing-wen led the independence-leaning DPP to election victory last year.

Beijing claims the island as part of China and has never renounced the use of force to bring it under its control.

Chiu E-Ling, secretary general of the Taiwan Association for Human Rights, told reporters at a press conference on Tuesday that Li’s supporters would call on Tsai and her government go beyond mere words to secure Li’s release.

They also expressed concern over the verdict’s implication for the rights of Taiwanese citizens, saying that Li had expressed his opinions online while on Taiwan soil.

The Global Times, a state-backed tabloid popular with China’s nationalists, said in an editorial on Wednesday that the DPP’s statement was tantamount to encouraging Taiwanese to come to China and break the law.

“We hope that Taiwanese people will not accept the DPP’s witchcraft and will not become an assault team or sacrificial victims for them,” the paper said.

“One’s own safety should be more important than the slogans they utter,” it added.

Reporting by Christian Shepherd and Liangping Gao; Additional reporting by Brenda Goh in Taipei; Editing by Michael Perry

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