The Tiananmen Dissident: Blind and Deaf after 21 Years in Jail

Jun 04, 2011

Though he was not placed on China's most wanted list, the punishment meted out to Li Wangyang was heavier than for any of the student leaders.

Li Wangyang (李旺阳), a native of Hunan Province, was arrested and jailed after June 4, 1989, for organising the workers’ demonstrations. He denied all charges and spent 21 years in prison.

921 Li Wangyang 李旺阳 (Photo: Apple Daily)

When he was released in May after serving the full sentence, he had been tortured beyond recognition. He was all skin and bones, deaf, blind and had to rely on others to feed him. His friends and family have launched an appeal to help the man they call the “Tough man of June 4”.

Although Li is now disabled, his mind remains alert and focused on democracy.

According to Li's friend, Zhu Chengzhi, during the 1989 Tiananmen demonstrations, Li, then 40, was the chairman of the Workers' Autonomous Union, and had assisted in rallying the workers to the students' cause. After he was arrested, he was sentenced to a 13-year jail term and released in 2000. A year later he took part in civil activities and was again arrested. He was finally released on May 5, this year.

From June 4, 1989 till now, he had been locked up for 21 years, more than the maximum 20 years permitted by China's incarceration law, said Zhu.

He added that when he was arrested, Li was 1.8 metres tall and strong as a bull. By the time he was released, he was incapacitated and had to be carried, thin as bones, deaf, blind and reliant on his sister for his basic needs.*

Zhu pointed out that although Li is now disabled, his mind remains alert and focused on democracy.

“Today, setting aside political rights and wrongs, simply from a humanitarian point of view, may the world help him and let this tough man receive humanitarian care.”

After his release, Li is said to be homeless and is currently staying with his younger sister.

*Li had carried out a hunger strike in 2001. (See here)

This report was published and translated from Apple Daily (subscribers only). It is also available here.