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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(reuters_tickers)
By Christian Shepherd and Jess Macy Yu
BEIJING/TAIPEI (Reuters) - China on Tuesday sentenced Taiwanese rights activist Li Ming-che to five years in prison for subverting state power, prompting Taiwan's ruling political party to label the verdict "totally unacceptable".
Li, a community college lecturer and an activist at a human rights non-governmental organisation in Taiwan, went missing while on a trip to China in March. Chinese authorities later charged him with subverting state power.
In the first hearing of Li's case in September, he confessed to subversion, according to videos of the hearing, though his wife refused to recognise the court's authority.
Tuesday's verdict was handed down by the Yueyang City Intermediate People's Court in central Hunan province, according to a video of proceedings released by the court's social media account. A mainland Chinese rights activist, Peng Yuhua, tried alongside Li, was sentenced to seven years for the same crime.
Taiwan's ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) said that it was "strongly dissatisfied and regretful" of the result, calling for Beijing to allow Li to return to Taiwan.
Beijing must ensure the health and well-being of Li, respect the law and continue to allow his family to visit him, the DPP said in a statement.
Li's wife, Li Ching-yu, who had travelled to the mainland from Taiwan to attend her husband's hearing, was in attendance when the verdict was read, according to the videos.
Li Ching-yu said in a statement sent to Reuters by her supporters that her husband had long realised that his rights work came with a cost and that there were "tigers in the mountains".
"He came to understand early on that he must accept the torment of being made to accept guilt and of being imprisoned," she said.
Peng had been the main actor in the subversion and Li had been an active participant, the court authorities said in the video.
Both Li and Peng said that they accepted the ruling and would not appeal, according to the court's video.
Ties between Beijing and Taipei have been strained since Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen, leader of the independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party, took office 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.
(Reporting by Christian Shepherd in Beijing and Jessica Macy Yu in Taipei; Editing by Michael Perry and Tony Munroe)