Li Wangyang, a leading Chinese dissident imprisoned after the 1989 Tiananmen pro-democracy protests, has been found dead under strange circumstances, his relatives and rights groups said.
Officials said Li Wangyang, who was freed from jail a year ago, hanged himself in hospital, where he was being treated for heart disease and diabetes.
But Li Wangyang’s brother-in-law questioned the death, says the dissident showed “no signs of suicide” in a recent meeting.
Li Wangyang spent more than 22 years in jail.
Li Wangyang, who was freed from jail a year ago, hanged himself in hospital, where he was being treated for heart disease and diabetes
Zhao Baozhu said he saw the body of his brother-in-law in a hospital in the central Chinese city of Shaoyang.
Li Wangyang was found in his room with a white strip of cloth around his neck connected to a window bar above, Zhao Baozhu said.
He said the authorities had then taken away Li Wangyang’s body without approval from the family.
“Last evening we were together, Li Wangyang did not show any signs of suicide; it is strange,” Zhao Baozhu told AFP news agency.
“Li Wangyang is a man with a strong mind and strong spirit,” he added.
He told the news agency he did not want to comment further as he was afraid his phone was being monitored.
The Hong Kong-based Information Centre for Human Rights and Democracy in China said Li Wangyang died “unusually”.
“We cannot rule out that security guards monitoring him tortured him to death and faked a suicide,” the centre said in a statement.
Li Wangyang, a labor rights activist, was sentenced to 13 years in prison for his role in the 1989 Tiananmen protests, the centre said.
He was released in 2001 but later sentenced to another 10 years for “inciting subversion”.
Chinese authorities have arrested activists and placed others under increased surveillance to stop them from marking the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square crackdown.
Searches on social media sites have also been restricted to try to prevent any reference to the 1989 events.
The foreign ministry expressed “strong dissatisfaction” over a call from the US to free those still in prison for their involvement in the protests.
In 1989, the army shot dead hundreds of civilians rallying for democracy.
Beijing says the June 1989 events were a counter-revolutionary revolt and defends its response. The Communist Party still prevents any public remembrance of the event.
Chinese authorities have arrested activists and placed others under increased surveillance to stop them from marking the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square crackdown
On Sunday, the US government urged China to free all those still in prison after the crackdown on protesters.
It called China’s “violent suppression” of the Tiananmen Square demonstrations a “tragic loss of innocent lives”.
From the capital, Beijing, to Fuzhou on the east coast and Guiyang in the far south-west, Chinese police have moved to detain and pressure activists.
Hundreds have been rounded up in Beijing to prevent them from marking the anniversary, rights campaigners told AFP news agency.
A small group of elderly men who organized a protest in a park in Guizhou a week ago have been rounded up.
A human rights group, the Dui Hua Foundation, estimates that fewer than a dozen activists arrested in the 1989 Tiananmen crackdown remain in jail. Hundreds were rounded up at the time.
Those left in jail are not students who led the protests, but people who committed arson or attacked martial law troops, Dui Hua executive director John Kamm told the Associated Press news agency.