Police Charge Activist Who Cast Doubt on Suicide

Zhu Chengzhi, close friend of Li Wangyang, the labor activist whose death in June led to much debate, has been arrested for “inciting subversion of state power”. South China Morning Post reports on Zhu Chengzhi’s arrest, detention, and relationship with Li Wangyang:

A friend of pro-democracy activist Li Wangyang who challenged a police finding that Li committed suicide in a hospital has been formally arrested by police on subversion charges, according to a police document and a fellow activist.

Zhu Chengzhi, 62, was charged with “inciting subversion of state power” by police in Shaoyang, Hunan, according to an official document posted online. The police document, dated July 25, said he is being held at the Shaoyang police detention centre.

[…]The formal arrest of Zhu, the first of about a dozen of Li’s associates who have spoken out about his suspicious death, has sparked fears that the others could face the same fate. Many are being held in police detention or are under house arrest.

[…]Zhu, who went to school with Li, met Li for the last time on June 4 and told the South China Morning Post on the day Li died: “I simply don’t think it was a suicide because Li was the kind of guy who would never commit suicide, even if a knife was held against his neck.”

Hong Kong’s English daily The Standard has more on the reasons for Zhu’s detention and his supposed whereabouts:

Zhu was among the first to dispute the claim that Li committed suicide by hanging himself from the bars of a hospital window. He videotaped Li’s body before it was removed, showing his feet were touching the floor and there was a strip of cloth around his neck, raising suspicions about it being suicide.

Amnesty International says Zhu was taken away by Daxiang district police on June 9. His wife, Zeng Qinglian, next day received a notice from authorities to say Zhu was to serve 10 days’ administrative detention for disrupting public order and would be released on June 18.

She believed that Zhu was detained for refusing to sign an undertaking not to call for an independent investigation into Li’s death.

On June 18, rather than being released Zhu was transferred to a detention center in Shuangqing district in Hunan, though he had not been charged.

Another article from The Standard reports on Hong Kong-based protests over Zhu’s arrest:

Dozens rallied outside the central government liaison office yesterday to protest at the arrest of activist Zhu Chengzhi.

[…]Chanting and carrying banners, the activists marched from Western police station.

[…]The Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China, which organized the rally, urged Beijing to release Zhu and another rights activist, Xiao Yong, who was last month sentenced to 1 years of labor re-education.

[…]Suspicion over Li’s death sent tens of thousands of Hong Kong people to the streets in June.

In July, activist Xiao Yong was sentenced without trial to labor re-education for contesting official conduct in the case of Li Wangyang. Re-education through labor is a common fate for dissidents and activists in China, and a disciplinary practice that recently sparked online debate after the mother of a rape victim was sent to a labor camp for challenging court rulings in her daughter’s case (the mother has since been released).

The website Free Hongzhi has been rallying for the detained activist’s freedom since his initial detainment in June. Also see a recent post for Global Voices, in which Oiwan Lam translates netizen commentary and support for Zhu from Weibo and Twitter.