Chinese activists swear off suicide after 'suspicious' death

Mourning Li Wangyang

Suspicious over whether a Tiananmen Square activist really committed suicide last week, Chinese dissidents have begun putting out statements that they won’t take their own lives.

The burst of online declarations come in the middle of growing calls to investigate whether Li Wangyang took his own life in a Shaoyang hospital room -- or had it taken from him. His supporters claim that when he was found, his feet touched the ground, raising doubts about whether he had hanged himself.

Li, 62, was convicted of spreading counterrevolutionary propaganda during the Tiananmen Square protests. After 13 years in prison, he was released, only to be sentenced to another decade of imprisonment. He was on medical parole at the time of his death.

Human rights groups have demanded that China investigate how Li died. In nearby Hong Kong, thousands of people poured onto the streets this week to protest his death and the fact he was cremated while questions still lingered about his passing. Hong Kong Chief Executive Donald Tsang called the circumstances “suspicious,” the South China Morning Post reported.

To stop the same suspicions from shadowing their own deaths, Chinese dissidents have started proclaiming that they will not commit suicide -- a searing sort of anti-suicide note. The outpouring reportedly began with AIDS activist Hu Jia, then spread through the Chinese version of Twitter.

“I am cautious by nature and am optimistic. I am healthy and I have a strong faith. In the past, now or in the future, whatever I encounter, any disease, political persecution or hardship, I have never and will never resort to committing suicide as a solution,” economist Xia Yieliang wrote on Sina Weibo, according to the Central News Agency of Taiwan.

“If I ever die in an unexpected way, it must have been arranged for me, this includes a car accident or drowning. Apart from this tyrannical regime, I have no enemy in this world. I hereby make this statement as proof,” Xia concluded.

Another message, translated by the Shanghaiist blog, reads, "I, Wang Lihong, have attempted to commit suicide in prison before, not because I was weak, but because I wanted to defend my own dignity. I hereby declare I will never ever attempt suicide again."

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-- Emily Alpert in Los Angeles

Photo: A woman attends a vigil Wednesday to mourn Chinese labor activist Li Wangyang's death in Hong Kong. Credit: Vincent Yu / Associated Press

 
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