Activist raising funds for memorial to fellow fighter
Hong Kong may soon be home to a life-sized bronze memorial of the late Hunan pro-democracy activist Li Wangyang, thanks to the efforts of a fellow veteran of the Tiananmen Square protests who hopes to raise US$50,000 through a crowd-funding site.
Exiled June 4 dissident Tang Baiqiao, himself from Hunan, has taken a democratic approach to his latest project, asking global internet users to donate money for the project - estimated to cost US$179,000 - via a website called Indiegogo.
Tang, who sought refuge in Hong Kong and later the United States after he was jailed for his role in the 1989 democracy movement, started the project two weeks ago.
He hopes to have the statue (imagined by an artist on left) built in New York in three months and sent to Hong Kong for display. Depending on the funds raised, the statue will be either stainless steel or bronze - the more costly, but preferred, option.
'It is more impressive and can better illustrate the great spirit of Li Wangyang,' said Tang, president of the Democracy Academy of China in New York.
'Also, we want to show our highest respect to his spirit and encourage Chinese people to stand up for a free China.'
Li, who spent 21 years in prison as a result of his pro-democracy activities, died last month in suspicious circumstances. He was found hanged in a hospital in Shaoyang with his feet touching the ground.
His death sparked global outrage, with many believing Li did not kill himself and accusing Beijing of foul play. Days after his death, thousands of people staged a protest march in Hong Kong.
Li's family said they were not able to see the hospital ward where he allegedly died. An autopsy at which no relatives were present ruled Li's death accidental. His body was cremated three days after he died, shutting the door to further forensic examination, although authorities subsequently opened an investigation.
'We don't expect the Chinese government will react positively to this project,' Tang said. 'The life and death of Li Wangyang not only exposed the evil and ruthlessness of the Chinese communist regime, but also showed the great spirit of a fighter for democracy and freedom in China. In this morally failing world, such a spirit is precious.
'When I heard of his death, I couldn't stop crying for days. I never felt so sad, even after my father died.'
Tang turned to Indiegogo after reading about Karen Klein, a 68-year-old bus monitor in the US who was bullied by students. A groundswell of public support on the site helped raise more than US$600,000 to pay for a vacation for Klein.
Tang has also written to potential donors and opened a bank account for direct donations.
The statue will be sculpted by US-based Hangzhou artist Chen Weiming, whose works include a bust of US President Barack Obama and a large-scale relief depicting the June 4, 1989 Tiananmen crackdown.
For Tang, the statue would represent the enduring spirit of Li.
'Li's heroic utterance 'I won't retreat even if I am beheaded' shocked the whole Chinese world,' Tang said, referring to the last interview Li gave on June 2, four days before he died.
'We Chinese people today need this kind of spirit for a second June 4 democracy revolution, which may come very soon. Actually, it's already started in Hong Kong.'