Police charge activist who cast doubt on suicide
A friend of pro-democracy activist Li Wangyang who challenged a police finding that Li committed suicide in a hospital has been formally arrested by police on subversion charges, according to a police document and a fellow activist.
Zhu Chengzhi , 62, was charged with 'inciting subversion of state power' by police in Shaoyang , Hunan , according to an official document posted online. The police document, dated July 25, said he is being held at the Shaoyang police detention centre.
Zhu's wife could not be reached for comment yesterday but fellow activist Wang Lihong, who spoke to her a few days ago, confirmed the authenticity of the document. Formal arrest is often the first step towards prosecution.
The formal arrest of Zhu (pictured), the first of about a dozen of Li's associates who have spoken out about his suspicious death, has sparked fears that the others could face the same fate. Many are being held in police detention or are under house arrest.
Li, 62 - a nearly blind and deaf dissident who served a total of 21 years behind bars for his activism in Hunan in support of the Tiananmen pro-democracy movement in 1989 - was found dead in a hospital ward in Shaoyang on June 6, four days after Hong Kong Cable Television broadcast a defiant interview with the labour activist.
His family and friends - including Zhu - have refused to accept the police explanation that he hanged himself in his hospital ward. His death came two days after the 23rd anniversary of the June 4 crackdown.
The Communist Party's top official in Hunan, Zhou Qiang, insisted Li's apparent suicide was 'crystal clear with verified evidence'.
Wang said local officials bore a grudge against Zhu because he filmed the scene of Li's suspicious death at the hospital ward and posted the video online.
Zhu, who went to school with Li, met Li for the last time on June 4 and told the South China Morning Post on the day Li died: 'I simply don't think it was a suicide because Li was the kind of guy who would never commit suicide, even if a knife was held against his neck.'
Wang said police ordered Zhu to serve 10 days of administrative detention from June 8 and he was then taken into the Shaoyang police detention centre for 'criminal detention'.
She said Zhu was initially detained because he refused to sign a statement disowning statements he made to the media that cast doubt on the official version of Li's death.
Calls to Shaoyang's Public Security Bureau and the police detention centre went unanswered yesterday.
'It's a made-up charge, everyone is suspicious about Li's death, [the police] are just taking it out on Zhu,' she said. Wang herself is under surveillance.
Wang Songlian, a researcher at Chinese Human Rights Defenders, said: 'Instead of launching a [more thorough] investigation into the death, the authorities are going after his family and friends - this case is emblematic of the deteriorating state of China's human rights.'
Additional reporting by Laura Zhou