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An Open Letter from Ten Attorneys Asking the National People’s Congress to Push For Re-opening the Investigation into the Death of Li Wangyang.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Translated by China Aid Association   July 23, 2012

To the National People’s Congress of the People’s Republic of China and its Standing Committee:

We are ten citizens of the People’s Republic of China who have long been working in the field of law. In accordance with Articles 41 and 62 of the Constitution of the People’s Republic of China, we hereby present to the National People’s Congress our legal analysis of and independent conclusions about the death that stunned the world of Li Wangyang of Shaoyang, Hunan province, including the “Joint Investigation Report on the Death of Li Wangyang” released on July 12, 2012 by the Hunan Provincial Public Security Department and the way the Shaoyang police handled Li Wangyang’s death.
Accordingly, we ask the National People’s Congress to perform its duties and immediately push for re-opening the investigation into the death of Li Wangyang.

I. We believe that the evidence in the “Joint Investigation Report on the Death of Li Wangyang” that confirms Li Wangyang committed suicide by hanging is seriously inadequate.
Our questions below with regard to the “Joint Investigation Report on the Death of Li Wangyang” (hereafter, “Joint Investigation Report”) are based on the assumption that the quoted material is true and trustworthy.

1. The investigation of the scene described in the Joint Investigation Report raises five major questions.

(i) the length of the rope:

A person who wants to die will try his or her best do whatever he or she can in order to succeed. According to the account in the Joint Investigation Report, Li Wangyang climbed onto the mattress of Bed No. 19 to hang himself. In that case, he should have made sure that the rope was of the right length with which to hang himself. Since he was almost blind and couldn’t judge the height, as he stood on the bed with the rope around his neck he must certainly have found a way to shorten the rope to ensure that he would succeed in committing suicide. However, according to the video and photos of the scene and the Joint Investigation Report, while he was still hanging, both of Li Wangyang’s feet were touching the floor and his legs were bent. Moreover, the length of rope from where he tied the noose was longer than the height of the bed.

(ii) shoe prints on the mattress:

The Joint Investigation Report says: (Bed No. 19) “Two arc-shaped shoe prints are on the southwest corner of the mattress” and “The shoe prints were left there by Li Wangyang’s slippers.” According to this account, Li Wangyang stood on Bed No. 19 on his own, then tied the rope to the horizontal rail of the anti-theft bars outside the window. Li Wangyang was so seriously nearsighted that it was only under bright light that he could see the outline of a person; he was nearly blind. Yet, in the middle of the night, he [supposedly] found the window by touch, then found by touch the rail of the anti-theft bars outside the window. And then, he [supposedly] tied one end of the rope to the horizontal bar which was 217.5 cm from the ground and then tied the other end around his neck. This series of complicated moves would be difficult even for an able-bodied person with perfect vision to perform, let alone a weak, old and nearly blind man who suffered from many illnesses for which he was still in the hospital undergoing treatment. How could he make such complicated moves with his upper body while his feet never moved at all? The prints he left on the mattress were distinct, clear prints with rounded edges and not even the pattern of the sole was smudged.

(iii) marks on the window rail:

The Joint Investigation Report claims: “On the window rail that is 200 centimeters from the ground, there are 15 places where there are signs that the dust has been disturbed by [someone’s] touch.” If Li Wangyang was the one who left these marks where the dust was disturbed, why was no corresponding dust found on Li Wangyang’s hands? Even if some dust was rubbed off while he was tying the rope, some dust would still have remained under his fingernails. If no dust from this spot was left on Li Wangyang’s hands, then who left these marks? And why?

(iv) position of the knot in the rope:

According to the Joint Investigation Report, “a strip of white cloth was around (Li Wangyang’s) neck, with the cloth knotted at the right side of the neck.” According to the video and photos of the scene, Li Wangyang’s body faced the window, with his head tilted slightly away from the knot in the rope (toward the window). The knot in the rope was on the outside, that is, away from the window. If Li Wangyang tied the rope himself after climbing onto the hospital bed, it would only make sense if the knot were tied on the left side of his neck, i.e. the side closest to the window. However, in actuality, the knot in the rope is on the outside, which is where it would have been easier for a third party to manipulate.

(v) strange posture of the body:

The Joint Investigation Report claims, “the horizontal bone fracture and bleeding at Li Wangyang’s fourth cervical vertebra is consistent with...strangulation by hanging when the body plummets and the rapid pull of the rope constricts the neck, causing the third and fourth cervical vertebrae to fracture and injuring the spinal cord.” If things actually happened the way the report describes, that is, that Li Wangyang jumped from Bed No. 19 and the sudden fall caused the rope to tighten and the counterweight of his body caused the fracture to his cervical vertebra, if that were so, then Li Wangyang’s body should be suspended in mid-air after it fell and all the weight of the body should be on the rope—only in this way could there have been “the sudden fall [that] caused the rope to tighten.” However, the fact is that Li Wangyang’s legs were bent and both his feet were touching the floor. [This shows that] before the rope constricted the neck, his body had been on the ground, and there was room for his two legs to bend. It’s clear that the conclusion that bone fracture was due to the “the sudden fall [that] caused the rope to tighten” is premature and unfounded.

Further analysis of points (i) and (v) [raises this question]: Since Li Wangyang footprints were on the mattress, he could have passed out and died when he jumped from Bed 19 and the weight of his body caused the rope to tighten around his neck. If that were the case, then logically speaking the body should be leaning, so why was the body straight and vertical? This is where the greatest contradiction lies. A simulation would show that in terms of dynamics this is absurd.

2. The autopsy in the Joint Investigation Report had many serious flaws

Based on a strict legal analysis of the autopsy, Li Wangyang’s body did not exhibit the internal or external signs that are characteristic of a hanging death.

Death by hanging occurs when a rope is tied around one’s neck and the force of gravity on the body is utilized to exert pressure on the neck, causing death. The body exhibits the following rather specific characteristics: dark red and liquefied blood is; congested blood in the internal organs; petechial hemorrhage on the body’s surface, the organs’ mucous membranes and the serous membranes.

(i) Dark red and liquefied blood. When a person dies from suffocation, the lack of oxygen causes a gradual increase in fibrinolyse leading to fibrinolysis that prevents blood coagulation such that in two or three hours after death, the blood has become completely liquefied. Moreover, because of the high deoxidization of the blood in a suffocation death, the blood turns dark red.

(ii) Congested blood in the internal organs. In death by suffocation, the vacuum in the thoracic cavity increases rapidly, impeding blood flow back to the various organs, and thus leading to blood congestion in the blood vessels, lungs, right ventricle, the meridian system and other organs. During an autopsy, it is easy to see that the right side of the heart is conspicuously distended and is filled with dark red flowing blood. In contrast, the left ventricle is relatively empty. The liver, kidney and other organs are enlarged due to the blood congestion.

(iii) Petechial hemorrhage on the body’s surface and the mucous and the serous membranes.

In a person who dies of mechanical asphyxiation, permeability of the blood vessels due to the lack of oxygen increases, secretion of adrenaline, etc. stimulates blood pressure to rise, causing conspicuous petechial hemorrhage around the eyes, mouth, nose, as well as the pleura visceralis and pericardium viscerale.

(iv) Other characteristics of death by hanging. Based on the positioning of Li Wangyang’s body, this would be categorized as a lateral hanging death. In these deaths, there is hyperemia in the head and the face swells and turns black and blue because of the uneven distribution of force on the neck that makes blood reflux impossible. The blood in the blood vessels on the side of the neck that was tightly constricted by the strip of cloth strip flows inward, and it should cause conspicuous blood congestion and coagulation, and the skin’s outward appearance should therefore be a dark purple. Typically, the tip of the tongue protrudes from the opposite side of where the force was applied to the neck, and saliva comes out of the mouth and nasal cavity. Sometime, feces, urine and even semen can come out of the body.

But looking at the video and photos of the suicide scene, Li Wangyang’s face seems rather peaceful, with none of the signs of the painful struggle that precedes a suicide hanging. His face and eyes exhibited none of the characteristics of a hanging death, and there is no record that there was blood congestion or coagulation in blood vessels in the neck or dark purple skin. The investigation report does not describe salivation or excretion. The Joint Investigation Report gives some far-fetched answers to the questions raised by the general public, but purposely ignores this one fundamental fact: Li Wangyang exhibited none of the characteristics described above of a person who dies of mechanical asphyxiation.

3. The autopsy was incomplete and important steps omitted.

According to the professional standards specified in the Public Security Ministry’s “Autopsies of Persons Who Die of Mechanical Asphyxiation,” the autopsy must be combined with a full-body, systematic dissection and a conclusion can be made only after all other possible causes of death are ruled out. In looking at the entire report, we find there are many fatal omissions: 1) Failure to test for drugs, so that there is no way to rule out the possibility that Li Wangyang was forced to take some drug, and when he could no longer resist, he was hanged to create a scene that looked like suicide; 2) No description of an examination of the endometrium of the carotid artery or the posterior pharyngeal or other tests for vital signs; 3) Failure to dissect the major organs, and failure to test for lung edema, emphysema, blood coagulation and other tests, so that the possibility that Li Wangyang was killed by an external force and then someone hung the body to make it look like a suicide cannot be ruled out.

II. We believe the police in Shaoyang, Hunan province, seriously violated the law in its handling of the death of Li Wangyang.
1. Shaoyang police destroyed many pieces of vital legal evidence.

Since the Public Security organs had already come to the “suicide” conclusion before they cremated the body, this case is not a criminal case and the body should therefore have been released to the relatives. However, Shaoyang police forcibly took control of the body over the objections of Li Wangyang’s relatives and then hurriedly cremated it. Consequently, many pieces of vital legal evidence were inappropriately destroyed, leading to great suspicion that the body was cremated to destroy evidence. Based on basic jurisprudence, whoever was monitoring the area at the time of Li Wangyang’s death might have committed the crime, and the Public Security personnel who used government power to destroy vital legal evidence after he died are under suspicion of serious criminal [acts].

2. Li Wangyang’s relatives deprived of their right to learn the truth of the case and to observe the autopsy

The Joint Investigation Report claims that before the autopsy took place, written notification was sent on the 6th and 8th to Li Wangyang’s sister asking her to be present, but what actually happened was that as soon as the incident occurred, the local police restricted Li Wangling personal freedom, cut off her contact with the rest of the world, making it impossible for her to attend [the autopsy] even if she wanted to. Even today, Li’s family and friends cannot get in touch with Li Wangling; she has been “disappeared” this whole time.

3. The so-called mediation took the “civil case first, criminal case later” approach to confuse legal responsibilities.

According to the law, the cause of Li Wangyang’s death should be investigated first before determining who is liable for compensation in a civil case. Until the possibility that Li Wangyang’s death was a homicide had been ruled out, the question of the hospital’s liability in terms of nursing care simply did not exist. Sun Yat-sen University’s evaluation statement that concluded that Li Wangyang committed suicide by hanging was issued on June 19. But the so-called “mediation agreement” had already been signed 10 days earlier, that is, on June 9. This mediation agreement that was not supported by the facts or any legal evidence not only has no legal validity, but also violated the law because of its hidden ulterior motives.

4. The integrity of the so-called live on-site video cannot be guaranteed.

On June 19, that is, the night that the “Forensics Evaluation” was issued, the local Public Security agency organized so-called members of the Political Consultative Conference and residents of the community to watch the video, but Li Wangyang’s friends and family, lawyer and medical examiner were excluded. But in fact, it is precisely Li Wangyang’s family, the lawyer helping Li Wangyang’s friends and family and the medical examiner whose responsibility it was to rule out all other causes of death before ruling it a suicide by hanging who really had the right and the need to view this video clip. By comparison, none of the members of the Political Consultative Conference, the neighborhood Party secretary, corporate board directors, chiefs of newspaper bureaus and the many cadres and ordinary people who were present for the video showing, autopsy and cremation cared about the truth of the incident the way Li Wangling, Li Wangyang’s friends and the attorneys rushed to their aid did. Until this surveillance video is made available to the public so that basic tests can be run, there is no way to be certain that the no one had edited the surveillance video or even altered it or added to it or substituted another clip and passed it off for this one.

III. We ask that the National People’s Congress reopen the investigation into the truth of Li Wangyang’s death
Based on the above legal analysis and determinations, as well as related laws and regulations, we hereby formally submit our requests to the National People’s Congress as follows:

1. We ask the National People’s Congress to set up a joint investigation panel into the death of Li Wangyang that is made up of expert criminal investigators from Public Security, forensics experts, specially appointed personnel from the Ministry of Justice, representatives from the National People’s Congress Working Committee on Law, attorneys and legal workers personally appointed by Li Wangling, and special attorneys and legal professionals from Hong Kong and Macau who enjoy social credibility that will go to Shaoyang in Hunan province to conduct a special, independent and professional investigation free from the control of the local political and legal system. We also ask that the National People’s Congress, in view of the seriousness of this case and its international impact, to make public the results of the investigation to the whole of society in a timely manner.

2. To safeguard the dignity of the “Constitution of the People’s Republic of China,” and to protect the personal freedom endowed by Article 37 of the Constitution, we ask the National People’s Congress to immediately order the Public Security agency to end the illegal house arrest of Li Wangling and Zhao Baozhu and restore their personal freedom as legal citizens, allow them to enjoy their lawful rights and engage attorneys and legal professionals to participate in the special investigation into the cause of Li Wangyang’s death. At the same time, we ask the National People’s Congress to order the Public Security departments to end the illegal house arrest or illegal detention of Zhou Zhirong, Zhang Shanguang, Zhu Chengzhi, Yin Zheng’an and other citizens and restore their basic personal freedom.

3. We ask the National People’s Congress to include reform of the forensics system in the legislative plan of the National People’s Congress based on the loopholes in the legal process that have been revealed by this incident. The forensics systems of Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan and other countries should be consulted, and the Public Security system should be deprived of the right to investigate the cause of death, and this right given to the judiciary to conduct special forensics reviews into the cause of death. This new legislation should give judges the power to order the police to open an investigation and give the appropriate interested parties the right to ask the court to open an investigation. In order to guarantee fairness, the judicial review body should be independent of the Public Security system.

The People’s Republic of China is a permanent member state of the U.N. Security Council and has officially signed and ratified many documents guaranteeing human rights, and [therefore] shoulders responsibility for the advancement of human rights worldwide that it cannot shirk. We solemnly hope that the National People’s Congress will play a more extensive role in monitoring and supervising the protection of human rights in China and that it can truly represent the voices, interests and rights of the people in the advancement of the rule of law. The investigation into the cause of Li Wangyang’s death is an important test case for the National People’s Congress to see whether it can fulfill its duty of protecting human rights.

We respectfully await your reply.

July 23, 2012

Written by:

Liu Weiguo(Attorney from Shandong, Cell: 13518610665)
Jiang Tianyong(Attorney from Beijing, Cell: 13001010856)
Albert Ho Chun-yan(Attorney from Hong Kong, Tel: +852 9020 3087)
Xiao Guozhen(Attorney from Beijing, Cell: 15210442636)
Tang Jingling(Attorney from Guangdong, Cell: 18929551319)
Wang Quanping(Attorney from Guangdong, Cell: 13189886111)
Lin Qilei(Attorney from Beijing, Cell: 13366227598 )
Liu Zhengqing(Attorney from Guangdong, Cell: 13543432448)
Sui Muqing(Attorney from Guangdong, Cell: 13711124956)
Li Zhiyong (Attorney from Shezhen, Cell: 13008810667)

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