TAIPEI, Taiwan — The wife of a Taiwanese activist China accused of subversion said her husband may be pressured into pleading guilty when his trial opens Monday, but she remains hopeful that he can return home safely.

Lee Ching-yu told reporters at a briefing Saturday she plans to travel this weekend to attend Lee Ming-che’s trial in the central city of Yueyang. Supporters sitting beside her held up signs calling on China to release the activist.

“At this moment, I want to ask my fellow countrymen for their understanding if they see Lee Ming-che do or say anything unbearable in court outside of his free will,” Lee said.

“This is just the Chinese government being adept at the performance” of having someone confess, she added.

Lee Ming-che is accused of subversion of state power, a vaguely defined charge often used by authorities to muzzle dissent and imprison critics.

China’s wide-ranging crackdown on civil society has featured a string of televised “confessions” — believed to have been made under coercion — by human rights activists accused of plots to overthrow the political system.

Calls to the court and the activist’s lawyer rang unanswered Saturday.

Lee Ching-yu said she hoped her husband would be released. “I’m traveling there not to challenge or to argue, but to go to witness the arrival of justice that will let Lee Ming-che return to Taiwan with dignity, and promptly and peacefully,” Lee said.

Lee Ming-che, 42, cleared immigration in the semi-autonomous Chinese territory of Macau on March 19 and never showed up for a planned meeting later that day with a friend in the mainland Chinese city of Zhuhai. He had previously conducted online lectures on Taiwan’s democratization and managed a fund for families of political prisoners in China.

Amnesty International and other rights organizations have called for Lee Ming-che’s immediate release. They note that Lee is the first foreign non-profit worker to be detained in China after a law tightening controls over such groups came into effect. Lee had been a manager of a non-governmental group in Taiwan before his detention.

The new law says foreign NGOs must not endanger China’s national security and ethnic unity and subjects non-profit groups to close police supervision. It is seen by critics as the latest attempt by authorities to clamp down on perceived threats to the ruling Communist Party’s control.

Relations between Taiwan and China have been near an all-time low since the election of Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen, whose Democratic Progressive Party has advocated Taiwan’s formal independence. China cut off contacts with Taiwan’s government in June, five months after Tsai was elected.

In a statement Saturday, the Taiwanese Cabinet’s Mainland Affairs Council urged Chinese authorities to “properly handle” Lee’s case and “quickly respond to the demands of our government and people for Lee Ming-che’s safe return to Taiwan.”

Author photo
The AP is one of the largest and most trusted sources of independent newsgathering. AP is neither privately owned nor government-funded; instead, as a not-for-profit news cooperative owned by its American newspaper and broadcast members, it can maintain its single-minded focus on newsgathering and its commitment to the highest standards of objective, accurate journalism.