For Immediate Release
Sharon Singh, firstname.lastname@example.org, 202-675-8579, @spksingh
Amnesty International Implores China to Investigate Death, Protect Relatives and Friends of Veteran Dissident
In Open Letter to Chinese Government, Human Rights Organization Condemns Unlawful Detention of Li Wangyang's Sister and Brother-in-Law
WASHINGTON - Amnesty International today submitted an urgent letter to the Chinese National Peoples' Congress, appealing to the government to promptly initiate a thorough and independent investigation into the cause and circumstances surrounding the death of former prisoner of conscience, Li Wangyang. On June 6, 2012, the body ofa the veteran Chinese dissident and human rights campaigner was found in Shaoyang city's Daxiang District People's Hospital, in suspicious circumstances.
On June 7, at least four of Li's relatives and friends, including his sister and brother-in-law, Li Wangling and Zhao Baozhu, were arrested and remain detained. All efforts by friends, relatives or the media to contact them have failed.
In addition, on June 10, a reliable source reported that several friends of Li Wangyang were placed under close surveillance by local police. Meanwhile, Zhu Chengzhi, a friend who had previously been interviewed with Li Wangyang by Hong Kong media, and Tang Jingling were unreachable and their whereabouts remain unknown.
Amnesty International calls on China's Standing Committee to ensure that Li's sister, brother-in-law and other family and friends are not subject to arbitrary detention or any unlawful restrictions on their freedom of movement and expression.
In the aftermath of Li's death, outrage has grown among China's activist community. Thousands have signed an online petition disputing the authorities' explanation that Li committed suicide by hanging himself and in recent days, throngs of protesters have swelled the streets of downtown Hong Kong and Beijing.
Li’s family and friends have cast doubts on the police's version of the activist's death. According to the accounts of his relatives, Li's feet were still firmly on the ground when they saw him, rendering the circumstances surrounding his alleged suicide suspicious.
Given Li's poor health, blindness and inability to walk without assistance, in part due to the torture and ill-treatment he suffered during prison terms in China, his family questions how he could have found a noose and hung himself. Li's family and relatives confirmed that he did not shown any intention of committing suicide when they made their routine daily visit the day before his death.
In its letter, Amnesty International calls upon the National People's Congress to make publicly available the result of the independent investigation into Li's death. If the investigation reveals that Li Wangyang died as a result of unlawful acts, those suspected must be prosecuted in fair proceedings and Li's family must be compensated.
In addition, Li Wangling, Zhao Baozhu and other friends and relatives of Li must not be subjected to arbitrary detention and/or any form of restrictions, harassment or intimidation. His relatives must not have their rights to freedom of movement and expression violated.
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