Hong Kong (AsiaNews) - Tens of thousands of people in Hong Kong marched to the China's central government office yesterday (June 10) to demand an investigation into the suspicious death of a pro-democracy dissident Li Wangyang in Hunan province, whose body was cremated on June 9 reportedly with consent of Li's family.
More than 30 organizations, comprising labor, women, Catholic, Protestant, student and political groups co-organized the protest. Organizers said 25,000 people took part in the march from Central district to the Chinese central government's Liaison Office in western district; whereas police claimed 5,400 protesters took part.
The protesters, mostly dressed in black, mourned the death of Li and demanded justice over his death, and demanded a release of all political dissidents, a halt to clamp down on pro-democracy movement in China and vindication of June 4, 1989 movement. Many protesters brought flowers and incense for Li.
The march, under a heat of 30 degrees Celsius, was led by a big photo of Li and a big banner with Chinese character "dian" (meaning libation), as being used in traditional Chinese funeral procession (see photo).
Li, 62, had spent 21 years in jail after the crackdown on the pro-democracy movement in Tiananmen Square in 1989. He joined the movement as a labor leader in Shaoyang, Hunan province, central China. Released in 2011, he had lost his sight and hearing, and became disabled because of the mistreatment he received while in jail.
In early June, Li was interviewed by a Hong Kong media on the occasion of the commemoration of the 23rd anniversary of June 4 massacre. Li firmly said he hoped to see a democratic China and an end to the one-party rule, and he did not regret taking part in the pro-democracy movement. "Even if my head is to be chopped, I do not regret," Li said.
Then, on June 6, Li was found dead, and local government officials alleged Li had committed suicide at his hospital bed. While the truth of his death was not clear, his body was removed quickly and cremated on June 10. The Chinese authorities claimed to have consent of his family, but Li's family could not be reached for confirmation. A friend of Li, who was tightly under surveillance, told the press by phone that he believed Li's family agreed to the cremation under great pressure from the government.
The Hong Kong protesters demanded the probe into the truth of Li's death and justice for Li and his family, and urged for release for all political dissidents and a halt to clamp down on pro-democracy movement.
Hong Kong pro-Beijing legislator, Ip Kwok-him, also a delegate of the National People's Congress, made a U-turn decision yesterday, saying he would write to the NPC chairman about a probe into Li case. Earlier, he said he would not pursue the case.
Wong, a driver, told AsiaNews that he protested because he deeply "respected Mr Li's strong will to have democracy in China and great suffering in jail in the past decades. A probe into his death must be done to give justice to him and his family. Twenty-three years ago, I saw from TV news how the pro-democracy movement developed and cracked down. It is a truth, then and now. We have a conscience to speak out for the justice for him and his family."
About 100 Catholic protesters held a short prayer for Li and his family as well as for all dissidents in China before they joined the march.