9 June 2012
(c) 2012 Kyodo News
HONG KONG, June 9 -- The body of prominent Chinese dissident Li Wangyang, who died earlier this week under what his family and friends claim were suspicious circumstances, was cremated on Saturday despite worldwide calls for an independent investigation into his death, a human rights watchdog said.
The Information Center for Human Rights and Democracy said the funeral home confirmed that police and family members of Li were present during the cremation and that Li's sister had signed documents authorizing it.
Hong Kong's TVB quoted funeral home staff as saying police examined the body three times before the cremation, including by carrying out an autopsy.
Family members and friends had earlier refused a rushed cremation and called in vain for an autopsy to be conducted with the presence of a lawyer of their choice. They remain under tight police surveillance.
Li, a labor rights activist, had been imprisoned for 22 years for his role in leading a protest in Beijing's Tiananmen Square in 1989 and calling for the redress of the bloody crackdown of the protesters at Tiananmen.
He was released from prison last year with his eyesight and hearing almost entirely lost, allegedly due to torture while he was in jail.
Li was said to have hung himself Wednesday in a hospital he was staying at in Shaoyang, a city in Hunan Province.
Photographs taken by his family members and friends before police snatched away the body showed Li had his heels on the floor while in a standing position near the ward's window with what appeared to be gauze wrapped around his neck.
Thousands of people who doubt Li committed suicide have signed an online petition letter calling for a thorough investigation into the case.
Hong Kong legislator Lee Cheuk-yan, who chairs a group that promotes democracy in China, said he is upset and angry that Chinese authorities are "obviously trying to destroy the body and any evidence of foul play" by rushing a cremation.
"To find out the real cause of death now will be difficult," Lee said.