Beijing (AsiaNews) - A Democratic activist from Hunan, who has spent 21 years in prison for his involvement in Tiananmen Square protests and his commitment to the rights of Chinese workers, was found dead yesterday morning in mysterious circumstances in a hospital in Shaoyang. The family, friends and fellow dissident Li Wangyang (62) refuse to believe the statements of police that the man hanged himself.
According to the testimony of his loved ones, Li - who was tortured in jail, resulting in his becoming blind and bedbound - " was animated by a fighting spirit and wanted the authorities to overturn the official verdict on the 1989 movement." Beijing has called the protests "counter-insurgency". Because of the anniversary of the massacre, which falls on June 4, the government had imposed a 24 hr escort on them.
Zhu Chengzi, activist and friend of Li since school days, visited him last on June 4: "We talked a little, although he was not in good health. He had to be hospitalized but was optimistic. I do not think it is suicide because he was the kind of man who does not kill anything, not even with a knife at his neck. "
In an interview last month for
Hong Kong Cable TV, the activist said he did not want to give up his fight for
democracy and the rule of law in China. Now the family is preparing to fight
for truth and justice from authorities after his death. An anonymous source
said: "We demand a proper autopsy: we do not even know when he died, and
we do not know whether it was suicide or murder." Police have prevented
relatives from photographing the body of them and took them out of the hospital
Li, a trade unionist since the early 1980s, spent 13 years in prison on charges of being a "counterrevolutionary" for leading an independent federation of workers in Shaoyang during the events of 1989. After his release in 2000 for medical reasons, he was sentenced to another 10 years for "subversion" before his death, he was considered one of the political prisoners linked to Tiananmen hardest hit by government repression.
During his time in prison, as confirmed by several witnesses, he was tortured
in a systematic way. Despite the various claims against it, the Communist
government has never serious sought to eliminate the abuse of prisoners: particularly
harsh torture is used against political prisoners and those related to the
world of religions.
In March 2006, Manfred Nowak, chief UN investigator on torture, made a rare visit inside some Chinese prisons. Although he avoided the provinces most at risk, such as Xinjiang, the official wrote a report denouncing "the widespread use of torture in all prisons in China" [see. UN anti-torture agency calls for radical court, police reforms]