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Activist who was imprisoned in China returns to Taiwan

April 15, 2022 GMT
FILE - In this image taken from a video taken and released on Nov. 28, 2017, by the Intermediate People's Court of Yueyang, Taiwanese human rights activist Lee Ming-che sits during a court session at the Intermediate People's Court of Yueyang in Yueyang in central China's Hunan Province. The Taiwanese pro-democracy activist who served five years in China returned to Taiwan on Friday morning, April 15, 2022, the island's Central News Agency reported. (Intermediate People's Court of Yueyang via AP Video, File)
FILE - In this image taken from a video taken and released on Nov. 28, 2017, by the Intermediate People's Court of Yueyang, Taiwanese human rights activist Lee Ming-che sits during a court session at the Intermediate People's Court of Yueyang in Yueyang in central China's Hunan Province. The Taiwanese pro-democracy activist who served five years in China returned to Taiwan on Friday morning, April 15, 2022, the island's Central News Agency reported. (Intermediate People's Court of Yueyang via AP Video, File)
FILE - In this image taken from a video taken and released on Nov. 28, 2017, by the Intermediate People's Court of Yueyang, Taiwanese human rights activist Lee Ming-che sits during a court session at the Intermediate People's Court of Yueyang in Yueyang in central China's Hunan Province. The Taiwanese pro-democracy activist who served five years in China returned to Taiwan on Friday morning, April 15, 2022, the island's Central News Agency reported. (Intermediate People's Court of Yueyang via AP Video, File)
FILE - In this image taken from a video taken and released on Nov. 28, 2017, by the Intermediate People's Court of Yueyang, Taiwanese human rights activist Lee Ming-che sits during a court session at the Intermediate People's Court of Yueyang in Yueyang in central China's Hunan Province. The Taiwanese pro-democracy activist who served five years in China returned to Taiwan on Friday morning, April 15, 2022, the island's Central News Agency reported. (Intermediate People's Court of Yueyang via AP Video, File)
FILE - In this image taken from a video taken and released on Nov. 28, 2017, by the Intermediate People's Court of Yueyang, Taiwanese human rights activist Lee Ming-che sits during a court session at the Intermediate People's Court of Yueyang in Yueyang in central China's Hunan Province. The Taiwanese pro-democracy activist who served five years in China returned to Taiwan on Friday morning, April 15, 2022, the island's Central News Agency reported. (Intermediate People's Court of Yueyang via AP Video, File)

TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) — A Taiwanese pro-democracy activist who served five years in China returned to Taiwan on Friday morning, a Taiwanese government ministry confirmed.

Lee Ming-che was arrested by Chinese authorities in 2017 and charged with subversion of state power. His arrest was China’s first criminal prosecution of a nonprofit worker since Beijing passed a law tightening controls over foreign non-governmental organizations in 2016.

Lee had given online lectures on Taiwan’s democratization and managed a fund for families of political prisoners in China.

“Spreading democratic ideals is not a crime,” said Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council in a statement Friday.

For the past five years, he served his sentence in a prison in central Hunan province. Lee arrived back in Taiwan Friday morning, flying from the southern Chinese city of Xiamen.

His arrest came after relations between China and Taiwan soured, after the island elected Tsai Ing-wen as president. Tsai’s Democratic Progressive Party has advocated for Taiwan’s formal independence. China cut off contact with Taiwan’s government after Tsai came into office and now sends military planes flying towards the island on a daily basis.

China claims Taiwan is part of its national territory and claims Taiwanese nationals are also Chinese, issuing them a special identity card.