An outspoken poet and current affairs commentator from the southern Chinese province of Guangdong has died after ingesting pesticide, RFA has learned.
Li Huizhi, 62, died on July 23 in a hospital in Guangdong’s Huizhou city after being rushed there and placed on a ventilator in an attempt to save him.
His friend Li Xuewen told RFA that the poet had posted a suicide note online before taking his own life.
“After he had posted his suicide note online, he turned off his phone,” Li Xuewen said. “He took the pesticide, and was taken to hospital after that.”
The note suggested that Li had found the increased surveillance under the tenure of ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) general secretary Xi Jinping unbearable.
There has been less and less room for freedom of public expression since Xi Jinping took power, the letter said.
Li himself had been made a “ministry-level” stability maintenance target during the 2019 National People’s Congress (NPC) meetings in Beijing.
His phone had been monitored and he had to report to the state security police if he wanted to make a trip out of town, the letter said.
Li had also suffered a stroke in March 2021, after which his mobility had been greatly affected, it said.
“He was forced to use a wheelchair after the stroke, and suffered from paralysis in his right arm,” Li Xuewen told RFA. “It really did a lot of damage … he wasn’t able to write properly.”
“But he learned pretty quickly how to type with his left hand and carried on writing articles.”
Repeated requests ignored
The letter said Li had made repeated requests for the authorities to call off their surveillance teams, but to no avail.
The local state security police had replied that the decision wasn’t theirs to make, and that they would convey his request higher up the chain of command.
State security police made a couple of visits to Li’s home ahead of the CCP centenary celebrations on July 1, but didn’t give any kind of satisfactory response to his request.
“This deterioration in his living circumstances made him desperate,” Li Xuewen said. “The stroke had left him disabled, and yet he was still being treated as a stability maintenance target.”
“He wrote in his suicide note that he had no power to stand up to the CCP, and yet he was still being treated as a stability maintenance threat,” he said. “I think he was in despair.”
Li told RFA in 2017, ahead of the CCP’s 19th Party Congress, that he had been forced to return to his hometown of Huizhou by state security police, while he was living and working in Shenzhen.
“After I was brought back here, I was interrogated for five hours straight,” Li Huizhi said at the time. “The state security police are now watching me, every minute of every day, and they deleted around 900 of my tweets on Twitter.”
“Now my Twitter account is in their hands, so I can’t even log on,” he said. “I haven’t been able to write a column for the past four months now.”
Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.