Public in scandal-laden city question petitioner's death

Updated: 2008-05-14 00:00

FUYANG, Anhui  -- The public in east China's Anhui Province are questioning the unexpected death of a veteran businessman who was known to have disclosed a local official's power abuse, including the unauthorized building of a copycat "White House".

Li Guofu, former head of a real estate development company in Fuyang City, purportedly hanged himself at the prison hospital at 5 a.m. on March 13, a few hours before he was to meet his lawyer.

Li was formally arrested last October and was hospitalized since mid-January at the prison hospital in Fuyang for a cardiovascular disease and diabetes that had totally blinded him.

A video recording showed he took some toilet paper and walked out of his second-floor ward at around 4 a.m..

An inmate surnamed Wang said he woke up at dawn and found Li was not there. "I waited for about 15 minutes before I went out to look for him," said Wang.

He found Li "standing" against the iron fence behind the staircase on the first floor. "I asked what he was doing there, but he gave no answer." Wang went up and saw Li was dead.

Li's family, who were not informed of his death until 2 p.m., questioned the prison workers' judgement that Li had committed suicide. They said they saw bruises on his neck, chest and back. His mouth was tightly shut, a sign that he could not have hanged to death, said his son Li Denghui.

Li's death certificate, which bore only official seals from the prison, the hospital and the local procuratorate that issued the document, was also highly questionable, said Wu Ge, chairwoman of the constitution and human rights committee of All China Lawyers Association.

"It doesn't have a coroner's signature, or any further description of the body other than 'hanged to death'", she said.

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