IFJ Condemns Restrictions on Reporting of Suspicious Death of Chinese Activist


The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) condemns the restrictions imposed by Chinese authorities on the media reporting of the death of a man shortly after he gave an interview to foreign press about his incarceration and torture following his connection with the 1989 Tiananmen Square student protests.


Li Wangyang, 62 and blind, was a union leader in Hunan who had served 22 years in prison for his involvement in the Tiananmen Square protests that took place in Beijing around June 4,1989.


After his release, Li received 8,000 Chinese Yuan (approximately USD 1,300) from the foreign non-governmental organisation Human Rights in China. During his imprisonment, Li was tortured to such an extent that he was left completely blind and largely deaf.


Li disclosed that he was tortured by a prison warden during an interview with Hong Kong-based media channel, Cable Television on June 3, 2012. During the interview, Li demanded vindication for those punished or killed in the reprisals of the 1989 protests.


On 6 June, Li was found dead in Daxiang District people’s hospital in Shaoyang City, Hunan province. According to various Hong Kong and overseas media reports, his death was reported as a suicide. However, his family members and friends claim his death is suspicious. Li’s sister said she visited her brother in hospital the day before his death and he had asked her to buy him a radio, suggesting he had no intention of suicide.


When Li’s family arrived at the hospital after his death, they were prevented from examining his body by security agents. After his death Li’s body was immediately taken away by police despite Li’s sister’s demands for an autopsy. 


Chinese journalists have been forbidden from reporting the story. Li’s family were also warned by local police not to accept any interviews from the media.


“It is difficult to understand authorities’ claims that media reporting could jeopardise police investigations”, IFJ Asia-Pacific said.


“Li’s family and the Chinese public have the right to know how and why a man has allegedly committed suicide in a public hospital.


Given Li Wangyang’s connection with the 1989 protests, it is even more important that this case be investigated in a manner that is open and transparent.”


The IFJ urges Meng Jianzhu, China’s Minister of Public Security, to investigate the case independently and report to the public his findings.


We also urge Liu Yunshan, the Director of China’s Propaganda Department, to uphold Article 35 of the Chinese Constitution which guarantees the free media reporting of news stories of great public concern.        


For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +61 2 9333 0950 


The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 131 countries


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