National Endowment for Democracy mourns the death of Chinese lawyer Li Baiguang

Suspicious death must be investigated

WASHINGTON, DC – The National Endowment for Democracy (NED) was deeply saddened and concerned to learn of the sudden and unexpected death of Chinese lawyer and activist Li Baiguang who passed away on Monday, February 26 at an army hospital in Nanjing, China.

Li, a tireless advocate of religious freedom and human rights, was a frequent target of harassment and physical intimidation for his work to uphold the rights of Chinese citizens provided for under Chinese law.  He was a recipient of NED’s 2008 Democracy Award.

“We mourn the death of Li Baiguang, who was a good and courageous man who fought for human rights and religious freedom in China at great risk to his own personal safety,” said NED president Carl Gershman.  “When we honored him with the NED’s Democracy Award in 2008, we noted that he had been detained and physically attacked many times for his work, the first time in 2004 when he had brought legal action on behalf of 100,000 peasants who had been forcibly evicted from their land.  Given this history, and reports that he very recently appeared to be in good health, it is essential that an independent and impartial investigation into Li’s death be carried out before anyone accepts the official claim by Chinese authorities that Li Baiguang died from natural causes,” said Gershman. “Absent a credible investigation, reasonable people of good will hold the Chinese government responsible for the death of Li Baiguang and will see clearly the grave dangers facing all those who seek to defend the rule of law in China and to support people whose rights are grievously abused.”

The Board of Directors and the staff of the National Endowment for Democracy extend their sincere condolences and deepest sympathy to Li’s wife Xu Hanmei and to their eight-year-old son, as well as to Li’s colleagues who continue their brave work to defend human rights and the rule of law in China.