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Last week, well-known activist Li Wangyang was found dead in his hospital room. Protests and controversy have stirred up those who have loved and supported the activist after speculations of suicide have been questioned.
According to the ChinaRealTimeReport, “Mr. Li’s body was discovered hanging from a window in the hospital by family members on June 6. Photos of his corpse, which circulated online, appeared to show his feet touching the ground. Those images, plus testimony from friends about Mr. Li’s mood prior to the discovery of his body, have prompted skepticism over whether the death was truly a suicide.” As authorities are claiming Li committed suicide, outrage has been expressed by several protestors in Hong Kong as well as Li’s family and friends. A lot of the controversy over the way Li died is caused by the fact that he was interviewed by a Hong Kong-based news station just four days before his death. Li spoke out about the brutal treatment he received while in prison and according to his closest friends, that treatment is the reason that Li was nearly completely blind and deaf when he died.
While authorities say it was suicide, those that knew him well are completely against the idea. Huang Lihong, a fellow Hunan activist, said she last spoke with Mr. Li on June 3, three days before he died.
“At that time, he was still very well. We chatted very pleasantly. He loved life and had a lot of plans, so I’m convinced he absolutely couldn’t have committed suicide.”
Additionally, Zhang Shanguang, one of Mr. Li’s close friends, spoke out about the accusations of Li’s suicide by stating, “Li was extremely optimistic and strong, his disposition was unyielding. He had experienced much suffering and never thought of committing suicide.”
Wangyang was a Chinese dissident and labor rights activist and a member of the Workers Autonomous Federation. In spite of the Chinese government, Wangyang created a labor union in 1983 and for the next six years several protests ensued causing numerous deaths all over China. As a result, Li organized a memorial for the victims who had died. He was then arrested in 1989 on charges of subversion, counterrevolutionary propaganda and incitement. He was sentenced to an original ten years of imprisonment, but after appealing his sentencing, he was ordered to 13 years and ended up serving a total of 21 years in prison. The entire time of his sentence term, Li was ordered to hard labor, despite his deteriorating health.
Li was released from prison in May of 2011 and sent to a medical health facility to be treated for his health conditions. Li suffered from both diabetes and heart disease. Li was found dead on June 6, 2012 in his room at the Daxiang Hospital.
A petition launched by fellow Chinese dissidents, requesting a ‘credible investigation of Li’s death’, has already collected 5,000 signatures from Chinese mainland, Hong Kong and Taiwan and continues to grow rapidly.
City of Shaoyang officials are declining to make any statements at this time, claiming the case is still being processed.
Those who believed in the same freedoms, values and justice the same way that Li did and defended to his death, will continue through his legacy.
Image Courtesy of Leung Ching Yau Alex