Li Wangyang spent 21 years in jail for his role in the Tiananmen Square uprising in 1989. He was tortured with pliers. He had teeth forcibly removed when he staged a hunger strike.
When he entered prison he was a well-built man standing 5 foot 9 inches tall.When he was paroled in May 2000 he was 3.5 inches shorter, nearly blind and deaf. He had trouble walking.
But his release from jail didn’t end his persecution. Like many activists in China, he was subject to house arrest, continual surveillance and harassment by authorities in China. That was manageable compared to what happened to Li this week.
On Wednesday last week Li was found hanging in a noose made of white bandages. He was dead.
Those who knew Li said suicide was contrary to his personality. He was still active in human rights campaigns and had given interviews with Hong Kong media in advance of the 4 June anniversary of Tiananmen Square this year. He was passionate about the right of university students.
“They (university students) were patriotic and passionate and cared about the future of the country. But in the end they faced bloody suppression.” – Li Wangyang
The death was suspicious, but what occurred next may be criminal. Without the consent of any relatives Li Wangyang was cremated yesterday by government authorities. The cremation came a day after an autopsy that was performed against the wishes of the family. They were barred from the procedure and not provided the results.
Today in Hong Kong tens of thousand of protesters gathered to mark the suspicious death of Li Wangyang. Marchers called for an inquiry into the death, forced autopsy and suspicious cremation. They demand answers and request Hong Kong’s incoming Chief Executive CY Leung press for answers.
After 21 years in prison and a death that looks highly suspicious, Li Wangyang deserves greater respect in death than he received in life.