Activist strip searched in Hunan

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 01 July, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 01 July, 2012, 12:00am


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A Hong Kong activist says she was twice forced to strip naked by police in an attempt to 'humiliate'' her while being detained for 10 hours on a visit to the Hunan hometown of June 4 dissident Li Wangyang, whose suspicious death last month sparked an outpouring of anger in Hong Kong.

Debby Chan Sze-wan, 31, and law student Benson Siu Kin-tao, 20, were stopped by three people they believed to be plain-clothes police officers as they took photographs outside Daxiang Hospital in Shaoyang where Li died last month.

Li, who was blind and deaf, was found hanged from a window with his feet still touching the floor.

'They [the officers] did not identify themselves and tried to take away our camera and phones,' Siu said. 'We attempted to run away but they followed and forced us to go into a police station.'

The pair were separated after being detained. Chan said a female officer ordered her to undress completely because the officer suspected her of 'having a recording device hidden on her body' after finding a camera and recording devices in her bag.

'I think because of my background as an activist, they forced me to strip in order to humiliate me.'

Chan said the officers had told them that they were suspected of immigration offences because they had not registered at the local police station immediately after arriving in the town. But Chan said all the questions were related to Li's death.

'It is obvious that the reason to detain us was invalid,' said Chan 'I am very disappointed we were suppressed by the authorities when we just wanted to mourn the dead.'

Chan said she was hit by officers with plastic bottles and had her glasses torn off while being questioned. Her arms were bruised when she was forced to move to another room. Siu was not forced to strip.

Chan and Siu, who arrived in Shaoyang on Friday morning by overnight bus, were detained at about 9am. Officers from the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office of the State Council came to take them from the police station by car at 7pm on Friday after friends in Hong Kong reported them missing. They arrived back in Hong Kong at 7am yesterday.

Their trip was intended as a way of 'thanking and mourning' Li, who was jailed for 21 years for taking part in strike action in support of the 1989 democracy movement in Tiananmen Square. His death came days after he gave a defiant interview to Hong Kong's Cable TV. His family and friends rejected the authorities' initial assessment that Li had killed himself. Hunan authorities are carrying out further forensic investigations, though his body was cremated three days after his death.

Organisers of today's annual pro-democracy march expect anger over Li's death to encourage more people to take part.

Police confiscated material the activists took to Shaoyang, including more than 100 leaflets they intended to distribute, a banner and a photograph of Li.

In a separate trip on Friday, students Brandon Yau Sze-chung and Sam Wong Kai-hing went to Hunan but were not detained. They placed a board reading 'Mourn Wangyang' at a bus station in Changsha.