Thousands of activists marched in Hong Kong to question official reports of the death of Li Wangyang, a veteran of the Tiananmen Square democracy uprising who was freed last year after spending 22 years in jail for his role in the 1989 protests.
He was found dead in his hospital room after apparently having hanged himself. But supporters, friends, and relatives claim that, as Li was extremely unwell, it is unlikely he would have been able to carry out the suicide. They also say that to commit suicide without leaving a note is entirely contrary to his character.
Li’s family have also criticised the way his body was handled following the death, accusing the authorities of taking it away without the family’s permission and rushing through an autopsy in order to cremate it.
Days before his death, Li gave an interview to a local radio station attacking the Chinese government’s repression of dissidents and reaffirming his commitment to the struggle for democracy.
Han Dongfan, director of the China Labour Bulletin, said: “If Li Wangyang was not murdered why were his friends prevented from paying their last respects? If Li Wangyang was not murdered why were those calling for an investigation into his alleged suicide placed under house arrest or disappeared? If Li Wangyang was not murdered why did the family’s legal aid lawyer disappear? If Li Wangyang was not murdered why did the Shaoyang authorities threaten and intimidate his family members at the hospital? If Li Wangyang was not murdered why were his grieving relatives placed under house arrest and prevented from talking to the outside world?”
According to figures from the International Trade Union Federation, 36 people are currently in jail in China for “offences” directly related to their involvement in workers’ organising. These are the official, public figures. The real number is almost certainly much higher.
The LabourStart website is running an online campaign to demand a full and thorough enquiry into the real reasons behind Li’s death. To get involved, see here.