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Urgent Appeal for Credible Investigation into the Truth of Li Wangyang(李旺阳)’s Death

17 Jun

Urgent Appeal for Credible Investigation into the Truth of Li Wangyang(李旺阳)’s Death

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Hunan labor movement leader Mr.Li Wangyang (李旺阳, see below for bio and video) was found dead in the morning of June 6th, 2012, in Daxiang Hospital, Shaoyang municipality, Hunan province (湖南邵阳市), China. Mr. Li’s brother-in-law Zhao Baozhu (赵宝珠) told media that he received a call from the hospital, around 6am on the 6th, announcing Li Wangyang’s death. At 6:50am, Zhao found Li Wangyang in his hospital room hanging on the window frame. Media quotes Li Zanmin (李赞民), friend of Li Wangyang, as saying that Li’s body was erect in front of the window with a ribbon around his neck. Around 9am, friends and relatives of the dead received words from the police that Li Wangyang “committed suicide by hanging himself.”

From all the media information available thus far, there are a lot of questions about the “suicide” claim the police has made:

1. Mr. Li Wangyang doesn’t seem to have a motivation to commit suicide. Relatives and friends have all confirmed that Mr. Li is optimistic and resilient, his health has been steadily improving, friends have been raising money for his medical needs, and they are not aware of any suicidal tendency on Mr. Li’s part. His close friend Zhu Chengzhi (朱承志), who had a long conversation with Mr. Li on June 4th, told media that “Wangyang is a tough man. Even with unbearable pains, he would never choose suicide to end his life.” Mr. Li’s brother-in-law Zhao Baozhu said that, in the evening before, Li told his sister to bring a radio to him so that he could listen and stimulate the faint hearing of his left ear. When interviewed just days before the 23rd anniversary of June 4th Tian’anmen Square Massacre by iCable, Hong Kong, Mr. Li Wangyang encouraged Ding Zilin (丁子霖), leader of the group called Tian’anmen Mothers, that she has to continue to persevere. He said in the same interview that he had never regretted what he had done 23 years ago. “Each ordinary man has a responsibility for democracy, for the wellbeing of the nation. For China to enter a democratic society sooner, for China to realize a multi-party political system sooner, I will not look back even if I have to risk my head.”

2. On-the-scene evidence is insufficient to support the “suicide” claim. A picture of the scene shows that one end of a white bandage strip looped somewhat loosely around Li Wangyang’s neck while the other end apparently tied on the window frame. The bandage loop is loose, and Mr. Li’s face shows no signs of distortion. His feet touch the floor with his slippers still on. All in all, he shows no traces of struggle often seen in death by hanging. Furthermore, from the video of the iCable interview, we can see that Mr. Li, blind and deaf, needed help to just walk, and it is also a question where and how he obtained the bandage strip with which he “hanged” himself.

3. The police prevented relatives and friends from taking pictures of the body and took the body away. Zhao Baozhu and Zhu Chengzhi confirmed to the media that relatives and friends of the dead asked the police to allow them to take detailed pictures, but the police rejected their request and took the body away around 10am, even though several dozens of friends attempted to block the police. Local police also thwarted rights defenders from visit Mr. Li’s home to send their condolences and to learn more about his death. Police’s actions, all in all, raise the question whether the authorities have something to hide. Mr. Li Wangyang has been watched 24 hours a day by several security police since prior to June 4th and they were still at the scene when the event occurred. It is puzzling then why Mr. Li could possibly have committed suicide.

As citizens who are deeply concerned with the state of human rights and the democratic development in China, we hereby solemnly make the following appeals:

1. Designate an authorized forensic science institution outside Shaoyang municipality to look into, and identify, the true cause of Mr. Li Wangyang’s death, accompanied throughout by representatives of family and friends. The findings shall be presented to the public;

2. For humanitarian reasons, allow Mr. Li Wangyang’s friends to visit his home, send their condolences, and help with the funeral and other affairs;

3. Hold local police accountable for their criminal and civil responsibilities for Mr. Li’s death, and pay necessary reparations;

4. UN’s relevant treaty offices, world governments and international organizations shall monitor the case, and pressure the Chinese government, to ensure that Mr. Li’s death will be dealt with fairly, judiciously and transparently.

Li Wangyang’s Biography:

Li Wangyang, male, was born in 1950 and resided in Shaoyang, Hunan province, China. Influenced by the famed “Democracy Wall” in Beijing and, later, by the Solidarity movement in Poland, Li Wangyang organized “Shaoyang Workers Cooperative” in 1983. He was arrested because of it but was spared of criminal charges. During the June 4th movement in 1989, Li and others established “Shaoyang Workers’ Autonomy League”, with Li as the Chairman, that mobilized workers to demonstrate and protest in support of the democracy movement raging on in Beijing. He was arrested on June 9th the same year and later sentenced to 13 years in prison for “anti-revolutionary advocacy” and “inciting to subvert state power.” In prison, Li Wangyang was beaten and tortured for being “unyielding”. When he staged hunger strikes to protest against torture, guards forced him to eat by prying open his mouth and, in the process, broke several of his teeth. Over his lengthy imprisonment, he suffered from debilitating illnesses that resulted in him losing both sight and hearing. In June 8, 2000, he was freed with reduced prison time. To defend his legitimate rights as a citizen, Li Wangyang soon sought reparations from the government for persecution that resulted in him completely losing the ability to work. In May 30, 2001, he was again thrown in prison with a 10-year sentence, this time baselessly charged with “assaulting state organs”. He was freed on May 29, 2011. The 2011 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, released recently in May 2012 by the US State Department , listed Li Wangyang as one of 128 Chinese dissidents and rights defenders to be concerned with. In its commemoration of June 4th just days ago, the Independent Federation of Chinese Students and Scholars (IFCSS) awarded Li Wangyang the 2012 “Spirit of Freedom Award”.


Initiated by: Bei Feng (北风), journalist, Hong Kong

Xia Yeliang (夏业良), economist, Peking,China

Wu Renhua (吴仁华), scholar of historic documentation, the US

Drafted by: Bei Feng (北风)

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Activists are using this image to show solidarity with the campaign

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