About 25,000 people marched in Hong Kong on June 10 to mourn the death of a Chinese dissident, while the Christian groups that co-organized the rally urged Beijing to investigate the case.
Li Wangyang, a union leader in Hunan who had been imprisoned for 21 years for his involvement in the 1989 Tiananmen Square democracy protests, was found dead on June 6 in a hospital in what were described as suspicious circumstances.
While Hunan authorities claimed Li hanged himself, Hong Kong media said environmental evidences did not support the claim.
His death came after an early June interview with Hong Kong reporter Lam Kin-shing, in which Li disclosed the tortures he suffered in prison and insisted that he would continue to fight for democracy in China. Lam was saddened to learn of Li’s death and lamented that it was an “assassination.”
The Catholic Justice and Peace Commission, one of the co-organizers of the June 10 rally, urged Beijing to investigate and release all of political prisoners. It held a brief prayer session before the rally.
Or Yan-yan, a program officer of the Catholic commission, said that it was not easy to have a full account of the case due to corruption in mainland China, but said that “local authorities should know that the international community is aware of the case.”
Another co-organizing Christian group said that Christians should voice support for oppressed people and let the Chinese government know that it should value the dignity of each person.
Members of Amnesty International also joined the rally. “Li Wangyang was a tireless human rights campaigner who suffered at the hands of the government. His family and friends deserve to know the true cause of his death,” Donna Guest, Asia Pacific Deputy Director at Amnesty International, said in a June 7 news release.
Li’s death happened two days after the 23rd anniversary of the Tiananmen crackdown. About 180,000 people in Hong Kong joined a candlelight vigil on June 4.