Chinese activist Xing Wangli is in critical condition after his skull was smashed at a detention centre on Saturday, according to US-backed Radio Free Asia (RFA). Local police said that Xing attempted to commit suicide with a paper rope and failed in the process with his head hitting the ground.

Xing, from Henan province, is currently in a coma. The coming 15 days are a critical period, his brother Xing Xi told RFA on Monday.

Xi Wangli in hospital
Xing Wangli in hospital. Photo: RFA.

Xing Xi, however, was doubtful of the explanation and told RFA that “according to the people at the detention centre, he couldn’t think positively and used cardboard paper to make a rope. He hung from the room’s window and tied it around his neck to hang himself.” However, there was only the police’s story at the moment, he said.

He also told RFA that when the incident happened on Saturday morning, the police was not there, but there was security camera footage. “They are not letting us go into the detention centre, so we can’t see it,” he said.

Xing Wangli’s son, Xing Jian, told RFA that he believed that his father was beaten.

Xing Wangli son Xing Jian
Xing Wangli’s son, Xing Jian, on the left, holding a banner calling for concern for the incident. Photo: RFA.

RFA reported that after the family let the public know of Xing Wangli’s condition, his wife, Xu Jincui, was followed and his brother was put under house arrest. Xing Xishi, Xing Jian’s uncle, was also pressured and threatened with jail time. According to Xing Jian, his uncle is currently under house arrest in a hotel.

Patrick Poon, a researcher at Amnesty International, told HKFP that “similar incidents of death in custody and torture in custody have been documented by Amnesty International and other human rights organizations before – such as the cases of Li Wangyang, Cao Shunli, Zhang Liumao and Lei Yang – [so] it is worrying that Xing might have been tortured in detention.”

Li Wangyang
Li Wangyang, a Chinese labour rights activist who allegedly committed suicide despite being nearly deaf and blind. Photo: i-Cable screenshot.

He said that Chinese authorities should carry out an independent investigation and added that it was “hard to imagine the explanation about Xing allegedly committing suicide with a paper rope in the detention centre.”

“Why would his family be put under house arrest and tight surveillance if it’s only simply an suicidal attempt? It all sounds illogical and unconvincing,” Poon said.

Chantal Yuen is a Hong Kong journalist interested in issues dealing with religion and immigration. She majored in German and minored in Middle Eastern studies at Princeton University.