National Sections of the L5I:

Obituary: Li Wangyang, 1950 - 2012

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The League is saddened to learn of the death on June 6th, in highly suspicious circumstances, of the veteran Chinese labour activist Li Wangyang. Li was born just a few months after the 1949 revolution and became politically active under the influence of the “Democracy Movement" of the early 1980s. In 1983, he and his comrades organised the Shaoyang Workers' Cooperative. Although arrested at the time he was later released. Undeterred, he continued his activity and at the time of the demonstrations in Tiananmen Square in 1989 he took part in establishing the Shaoyang Workers' Autonomy League, of which he was the chairperson. The organisation mobilised workers in demonstrations in support of the Beijing movement and then protested against its bloody suppression. Within a week, he himself was arrested and later sentenced to 13 years for anti-revolutionary activity and “inciting subversion of state power".

Denied any other way of protesting at his brutal mistreatment in prison, Li resorted to a hunger strike. In retaliation, his guards beat him and force-fed him, breaking many of his teeth in the process. During his long years of imprisonment he suffered several illnesses which resulted in him losing his sight completely and most of his hearing.

When he was finally granted an early release, in 2001, Li fought for compensation for his mistreatment which had left him completely unable to work. The state's response was to accuse him of “an assault on state organs" for which he was given a further 10 year jail sentence. After his release in 2011, he continued to support campaigns for workers' rights and democracy in China. Just days before his death, he gave an interview to commemorate the Tiananmen movement during which he insisted that he had no regrets and would continue his protests “even if it costs me my head".

His family and friends reject out of hand the state's claim that Li, now a frail old man unable to walk without assistance and under police guard in hospital, committed suicide by hanging himself from a window frame. A picture taken by a relative shows Li's corpse upright against the window with a bandage loosely wrapped around the neck. Before any investigation could be made, the authorities removed and cremated Li's remains.

Given these circumstances, we urge activists everywhere to support the family's demand for a full investigation of Li's death and to sign the petition demanding this. While mourning Li's death, we are sure that his example will inspire many to take his place, Workers of all countries, unite!

The petition can be found at