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Hong Kong Activists Demand Probe into Dissident’s Death

Protesters in Hong Kong Jun 13, 2012, (I. Broadhead, VOA)
Protesters in Hong Kong Jun 13, 2012, (I. Broadhead, VOA)
HONG KONG - A week has passed since the suspicious death of Chinese political dissident, Li Wangyang, who served 21 years in jail for subversion and for his role in the 1989 Tiananmen Square democracy protest. Thousands of demonstrators turned out over the weekend and again at a public memorial Wednesday night to demand China open an inquest into Li’s alleged suicide.

The demonstration took place below the statue of Lady Justice perched atop Hong Kong’s former Supreme Court building.

The rally was organized by the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements in China.

“This is a political murder. We are demanding an investigation into the Li Wangyang case. If the case is not properly investigated, it shows that China now is more oppressive - that they can even take away the life of a person without responsibility, without justice,” said Legislator Lee Cheuk-yan, the group's chairman.

Two days after the 23rd anniversary of the June 4 Tiananmen massacre, 62-year-old Li, the longest serving of the Tiananmen political prisoners and a free man for just one year, was found dead in a hospital in Hunan Province, central China.

His body was discovered standing upright. A noose around his neck was attached to window bars high above his bed. Chinese authorities claimed Li, despite being frail, blind and deaf after years of torture in prison, took his own life.

According to Mi Ling Tsui of Human Rights in China, a New York-based NGO, an autopsy was carried out on Li by the same pathologist who ruled last year that a village representative, Xue Jinbo, had died of natural causes in police custody.

That disputed finding helped spark the so-called siege of Wukan in September - a stand-off with grassroots anti-corruption activists that caused the Chinese government considerable embarrassment.

“Notwithstanding the pledge from the Public Security Bureau ... they went ahead and performed the autopsy without the presence of the family and cremated the body, removing the most significant piece of evidence,” Tsui said.

Adding to the suspicions, reporters from Hong Kong - a semi autonomous part of China - interviewed the frail dissident two weeks before his death. Mak Yin-ting of Hong Kong Journalists’ Association reveals Li told them he did not regret his fight for a better, democratic country.

“His character is so strong. He [faced] torture for almost 22 years in prison. He said: ‘Even if you cut off my head, I will not turn back.’ So with such strong character, how can you imagine he [would] commit suicide?,” Mak said.

Activists vow to continue demanding an investigation into the Tiananmen veteran’s death, demands they say they will convey to Chinese president Hu Jintao when he visits Hong Kong next month to celebrate the former British colony’s return to Chinese sovereignty.