The father of a Chinese dissident who defaced a poster of President Xi Jinping has died in prison under ambiguous circumstances, activists and media reports said this week.
Dong Jianbiao was serving a years-long sentence for opposing his daughter Dong Yaoqiong’s internment in a psychiatric ward in 2018 and again in 2020, after she splashed black ink on Xi’s portrait in a Twitter livestream, Radio Free Asia (RFA) said on Monday.
Dong Jianbiao, a miner from Hunan province in central China, died in Chaling Prison on September 23, according to human rights activist Chen Siming, who was himself detained for tweeting about the death, RFA reported.
Chen, citing relatives of the Dong family, said the father’s body was “covered in signs of injury when they went to identify him in the morgue.”
“There were injuries from beating all over his body, blood in his anus and his eyes weren’t closed,” a cousin was quoted as saying. The relative said no cell phones were allowed inside.
A day after Dong Jianbiao’s death, prison authorities said he had died from diabetes. His body was ordered cremated five days later, RFA said, citing family members who suspected foul play. Newsweek has contacted Zhuzhou police.
Dong Yaoqiong, who came to be known as “ink girl,” spent two stints in the same psychiatric hospital in her native city of Zhuzhou, Hunan, for “compulsory treatment,” RFA previously reported.
In a livestream from her Twitter account @feefeefly in July 2018, Dong Yaoqiong filmed herself in public as she walked up to a poster of Xi in Shanghai, before dousing the Chinese leader’s face in black ink.
“I oppose Xi Jinping’s dictatorship and tyranny,” she said. “I oppose the Communist Party‘s brainwashing and suppression of me.”
Dong Yaoqiong later said uniformed police had arrived at her door to take her away. “I did not commit a crime. The people and groups who hurt me are the guilty ones,” she said.
Her father was arrested several days later while trying to visit her in hospital, RFA said.
It’s currently a sensitive time for political commentary in China. The ruling party is preparing for its 20th National Congress, a twice-a-decade event that typically features reshuffles in key leadership position.
Xi, who has been leader for 10 years, is expected to break with precedent and retain the party and country’s top political and military posts for a third five-year term. The move has resulted in increased scrutiny and unverifiable rumors about an internal rebellion.
RFA, which is funded by the U.S. government, began broadcasting on Asian airwaves in 1996.
Its longtime advocates include President Joe Biden, who in 1998—then still a senator for the state of Delaware—noted RFA’s capacity to provide a platform to pro-democracy and pro-reform Chinese voices, including dissidents, after Beijing’s crackdown on student-led protests in Tiananmen Square and elsewhere in 1989.
The Chinese government, which considers RFA a “U.S. propaganda tool,” has jammed the station’s frequencies and banned its website.
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