One of the main instigators of China’s Tiananmen Square democracy uprising called upon Beijing to follow Burma’s example during the last interview before his controversial death on June 6.
Li Wangyang was imprisoned for 21 years for his role in the 1989 student-led popular demonstration after being convicted of counterrevolutionary propaganda, incitement and subversion.
Just a few days after giving a television interview earlier this month, in which he continued to call for democratic reform in his homeland, Li was reportedly found hanging from a hospital window with a strip of cloth around his neck.
“The future of China is decided by the Chinese people. The people in power can’t decide it” he told Hong Kong Cable TV.”Taiwan became a multi-party system 10 to 20 years ago and underwent political reform.
“Even the Burmese military government has already given up their one-party system and Burma is progressing towards a democracy. I believe the future China will be on the path for freedom and democracy and implement a multi-party system.”
Authorities in Shaoyang City, in the central province of Hunan, initially claimed Li’s death was a suicide, but this was later revised to “accidental death” after the autopsy. Yet his supporters maintain that the demise of Li, in his 60s and deaf and blind after years of alleged torture while incarcerated, is extremely suspicious.
“We are questioning this [suicide], he was in prison for more than 20 years, and had a strong spirit. We cannot understand this, so really, in our hearts, we don’t believe this was a suicide,” said Li’s brother-in-law Zhao Baozhu.
Li was released in May last year but the authorities kept him under 24-hour surveillance in hospital. He could only communicate by having the shapes of letters drawn on his leg and attributed his blindness to “optic atrophy” after receiving multiple blows to the head during more than two decades in prison.
His death has had such an effect on the people of Hong Kong, where Li was a particular prominent figure, that already more than 50,000 petition signatories, as well as leading politicians from both sides of the political divide, have joined calls for a thorough investigation. Of all Chinese pro-democracy activists from 1989, Li spent the longest time in prison.
Many insist that the disabled activist may have finally been murdered because of his politics. Li used his last interview to say that he did not regret getting involved in the Chinese democracy movement despite the huge personal price he paid.
“There were so many students in Tiananmen Square, young students, patriotic students, their blood was shed, they sacrificed,” he said. “And I was just sentenced to jail and not yet beheaded. Even if I were beheaded, I would not regret it.”
“For democracy and the survival of the country, ordinary men should take responsibility.”