Rights lawyer's death gives rise to suspicions

China | Feb 27, 2018
A Chinese rights lawyer died suddenly in hospital of liver failure yesterday, sparking a suspicion over the death of someone who did not drink alcohol and looked healthy.

Li Baiguang, a Christian human rights lawyer who met regularly with high-level officials in the United States, died at the Number 81 People's Liberation Army Hospital in Nanjing.

"After a sudden outbreak of illness, efforts to save him failed," a source said. But "he had not had a health check recently, so we do not know if there was a long-term cause."

Hospital officials would not comment, citing patient privacy.

In 2008, Li, who left a wife and eight-year-old son, was given an award by the National Endowment for Democracy, a Washington-based organization funded by the US Congress for his work defending arrested Christian pastors.

Chinese-American Bob Fu, a close friend of Li, said the death was suspicious given the number of activists who have died from liver failure while in custody.

"Li did not drink alcohol and he did not smoke," he said. "For someone's liver to fail overnight at the age of 49 is highly unbelievable."

His friend looked "perfectly fine" this month on a visit to Washington, Fu said, adding that Li was detained by authorities before, including in October.

China's Ministry of Public Security did not respond to a request for comment.

Authorities have vowed to tackle problems of forced confessions, physical abuse and torture in its criminal justice system and rejected criticism of its rights record.

In 2017, ill-treatment by authorities may have contributed to the deaths of Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo and rights activist Yang Tongyan, according to a report yesterday by Hong Kong-based Chinese Human Rights Defenders.


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