BEIJING – Chinese human rights lawyer Li Baiguang died of liver failure Monday in a military hospital in Nankin, under what his friends and fellow activists described as suspicious circumstances.
The 49-year-old Li – who in 1998 was detained and accused of wanting to organize a group of intellectuals to promote a political transformation in China – was a champion of freedoms in China and is among some leading dissidents who have died in mysterious circumstances in recent times in China.
“We are deeply saddened for the loss of one of China’s most courageous constitution lawyers,” Chinese-American activist, Bob Fu, a close friend of Li, tweeted.
Fu, who acts as a liaison with Chinese dissident refugees or immigrants to the the United States, said Li was in good health a few days ago, and that he had “been treated violently last year and was threatened a number of times recently by the Chinese regime.”
Laywer-activist Teng Biao also called Li’s death at such a young age a huge shock and described him as a scholar, who had fought for human rights and democracy for 20 years.
The two activists said the fact that other prominent dissidents against the Chinese regime, including writer Liu Xiaobo and activist Yang Tongyan, had also died suddenly in recent months, some of them of liver problems, raised suspicions over Li’s death.
In 2008, Li was given an award by the National Endowment for Democracy, linked to the US Congress, and in 2006, he met then US President George W. Bush at the White House.