Family members of Chinese activist Li Wangyang who “committed suicide” four years ago were under heavy surveillance as they mourned him at his grave on Monday.
Li’s sister Li Wangling and her husband Zhao Baozhu went to Li’s grave in Shaoyang, Hunan province, but they were followed by national security personnel throughout the trip, according to Ou Biaofeng, a Hunan activist who has been visiting Li’s grave for the past few years.
Ou said Li Wangling appeared “extremely sad” at the grave, as she and Zhao were forced to leave the cemetery after around 40 minutes.
Ou also quoted Zhao as saying that the Shaoyang authorities had mobilised dozens of national security personnel to guard the cemetery to prevent anyone else from getting to the grave. Ou added that all the dissidents in Shaoyang were under their supervision and control, and the phone of Li’s close friend Yin Zhengan was switched off.
Li was jailed for 22 years after taking part in the pro-democracy movement in 1989. He was interviewed by Hong Kong’s i-Cable television channel in May 2012 and the programme was broadcast on June 2, ahead of the anniversary of the June 4 Tiananmen massacre.
Li had turned blind and deaf after years of imprisonment, and had to conduct the interview by writing words on his palm or his leg for him to understand the questions.
In the interview, he famously said “I will not give up – even they cut my head off”, referring to the fight for China’s democracy.
On June 6 that year, Li was found dead in the hospital where he was receiving treatment. His neck was tied in a white cloth hung from the window, while his feet were still touching the ground.
Officials then said he had committed suicide. Li’s sister had said that she questioned the death, but authorities soon cremated Li’s body following an autopsy.
The incident sparked protests in Hong Kong as many believed the suicide was staged.
Lam Kin-seng, the i-Cable reporter who interviewed Li in 2012, said on Twitter that he lit a candle to commemorate his death at 6am on Monday, the time he died four years ago.
“I wish you a better life on heaven than on earth,” he said.
The Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements in China marched to the China Liaison Office on Monday morning to mourn Li.
The group demanded an independent investigation to look into his death and punishment for those behind it.