Chinese dissident Li Wangyang found dead under "strange" circumstances


Visitors have their photos taken in Tiananmen Square in Beijing on August 17, 2011.


Peter Parks

Li Wangyang, a leading Chinese dissident during the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests, has been found dead, BBC News reported. Li was freed from jail one year ago but had spent more than 22 years locked up for his role in the 1989 protests.

Li died in a hospital, where he was being treated for heart disease and diabetes. Government officials say that Li, 62, committed suicide. People found him hanging from a window sill with a cloth around his neck. But others say the death is suspicious, the BBC reported.

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Relatives say that Li wasn't suicidal. “Last evening we were together, Li Wangyang did not show any signs of suicide, it is strange,” brother-in-law Zhao Baozhu told the Associated Foreign Press. “Li Wangyang is a man with a strong mind and strong spirit. Police have taken away his body without the approval of the family.”

Physical evidence also raises doubts about a suicide. Activists looking at images of Li's body found that his feet were touching the ground, which would seem to prevent him from killing himself through a hanging death, the Guardian reported

In addition, Zhao told the Los Angeles Times that Li was too weak to even hold a bowl without shaking. "I can’t imagine how he could have tied his sheets into a knot."

Fellow pro-democracy activists want a thorough investigation into Li's death, the LA Times reported, and agreed that he seemed to be in "good spirits" before the apparent suicide.