Call for fresh Li inquiry
A group of mainland and Hong Kong lawyers issued an open letter yesterday demanding that the National People's Congress launch a fresh probe into the mysterious death of June 4 activist Li Wangyang.
The letter says the conclusion of the official investigation into Li's death - that he committed suicide - was full of holes. The lawyers also demanded the immediate release of relatives and friends of Li.
The letter was signed by 10 lawyers, including Tang Jingling, who gave legal advice to Li's relatives, and Albert Ho Chun-yan, chairman of the Democratic Party in Hong Kong.
The Hunan authorities released an investigation report on July 12 that said Li had torn a strip from his bed sheet, which he used to hang himself from a window in his hospital ward on June 6.
The circumstances of the blind and deaf activist's death, a few days after an interview with a Hong Kong television station in the lead-up to the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square crackdown on June 4, 1989, prompted mass protests in Hong Kong. One of the lawyers, Liu Weiguo, said: 'There are many loopholes in the official investigation. The investigation was not done in accordance with proper legal standards.'
The letter called for a team of crime investigators from the public security authorities, autopsy experts, judicial officers, representatives from the NPC legal affairs committee, lawyers appointed by Li's sister, Li Wangling, and lawyers from Hong Kong and Macau to launch an investigation in Shaoyang, where Li died.
The letter said the investigation should be independent from the local political and judicial authorities.
It added that Li Wangling and her husband, Zhao Baozhu, should be set free, and be allowed to appoint lawyers to take part in the investigation. The letter also said the NPC should enact legislation on forensic evidence and approve the setting up of a coroner's court to examine the cause of death.
Shaoyang city authorities initially said Li hanged himself, but a public outcry in Hong Kong pushed the provincial authorities to launch an investigation. It found that Li's body fell within a very short period of time when he was hanging himself, leading to strangulation and fracture of cervical vertebra.
It said only 15 kilograms of force was sufficient to constrict the respiratory tract, and that even a person in a kneeling position could be hanged.
The letter listed a string of alleged illegalities in the handling of Li's death by police, including the forced cremation of Li's body and the detention of his relatives and friends.
'The police authorities rushed to cremate Li's body even when his relatives opposed such a move, destroying crucial evidence,' it said. 'The persons in charge of the police authorities are highly suspected of committing a criminal offence.'
Hunan and Shaoyang public security authorities could not be reached for comment.
The letter also said that no convincing case had been presented on how the frail rights activist, who could barely walk after being tortured during 21 years in jail for his involvement in the 1989 protests, would have been able to hang himself.
'It would be difficult to complete such a complicated set of actions [as described in the report] even for a young person in good shape and with good eyesight,' the letter said.
Some mainland lawyers who signed the letter said they had been questioned by police early this month for their support for Li.
'Police invited me for a talk on July 6,' said one lawyer, Xiao Guozhen. 'And then some of my friends said they were asked to stay at home and avoid meeting me.'