|Li Wangyang (left) with his friends who visited him in Shaoyang|
Li Wangyang was serving a prison sentence when his sister and brother-in-law discovered he was dead in his hospital ward in Hunan province on Wednesday.
The 62-year-old was supposedly under 24-hour police surveillance when the two relatives found Li hung from a ward windowsill by a bandage wrapped around his neck, with both feet on the ground.
It all sounds very suspicious because they were told the death was by suicide and on top of that the couple have been taken away by police.
Meanwhile the body has also been taken away without the family's permission and detained the relatives in a hotel.
According to New York-based Human Rights in China, Li had been sentenced to 13 years in prison for "counter-revolutionary" crimes for organizing workers in Shaoyang into an autonomous union during the 1989 pro-democracy protests.
Li served 11 years and then was released, but then was given another 10 years in jail in 2001 for "inciting subversion" after he tried to sue the authorities over his mistreatment in prison that nearly left him blind, deaf and numerous other health problems.
A local activist named Huang Lihong said after Li's death was discovered, more than 40 police descended on the hospital and took his body away, making it impossible for his family to determine the exact cause of death.
Huang said she too was escorted by police from the hospital and told to stay at home.
Only the day before his brother-in-law, Zhao Baozhu said he'd see Li.
"Last evening we were together, Li Wangyang did not show any signs of suicide; it is strange," he told AFP. "Li Wangyang is a man with a strong mind and strong spirit."
Days before June 4, Li had said in a television interview that he never regretted his fight for justice.
"The souls of the martyrs deserve to finally find some peace," said Li, referring to those who lost their lives in the Tiananmen Square crackdown.
Meanwhile Hong Kong-based Information Centre for Human Rights and Democracy in China said Li died "unusually".
"We cannot rule out that security guards monitoring him tortured him to death and faked a suicide," the centre said in a statement.
Outrage is the only way to describe our reaction to Li's mistreatment not only in prison, but also his suspicious death.
The local authorities think they can punish with impunity which is the height of arrogance.
If China wants the world to see its people are governed by rule of law, then Li would still be alive and well.
In the meantime we will make sure Li did not die in vain.
Beijing has created another martyr who joins the many others fighting for justice. They will continue to haunt Zhongnanhai as long as it takes.