The family of dissident Peng Ming, who died suddenly on Nov. 29 in a Chinese jail, say his heart and brain were taken from his body without their consent and that the authorities are obstructing their return to the country.
Peng Ming died suddenly at the age of 58 in Hubei's Xianning Prison, while serving a life sentence for "terrorism." The authorities said he collapsed and "died suddenly" while watching television, and his U.S.-based relatives have demanded an independent autopsy.
However, the authorities have yet to specify a cause of death, merely writing "sudden death" on his death certificate.
His sister Peng Xing said the family had undergone "non-stop" negotiations with prison authorities for four days, after which the authorities had agreed to issue visas to four of Peng's relatives to attend the funeral.
"However, something unexpected happened on Dec. 5; the relevant departments dissected Peng Ming’s body against the family members’ will and took away his brain and heart," she wrote in an open letter posted on the website of the Christian rights group ChinaAid.
She said authorities had also slashed the number of visas from four to one, saying that only Peng's eldest daughter would now be allowed to attend.
The move comes after the emergence last week of a 1998 handwritten letter from Peng warning his family to suspect foul play, should he meet with an "accident."
Soon afterwards, his family broke years of silence on his case to call last Friday for an autopsy by an international medical expert.
In a joint statement, they called on the authorities to refrain from cremating Peng's body before the visas had been granted and an autopsy carried out.
"In order to express our anger and protest, we decided unanimously that none of Peng Ming’s overseas family will attend the farewell ceremony on the mainland," Peng Xing wrote.
She said the ruling Chinese Communist Party is responsible for Peng's kidnapping and sentencing, as well as his recent death.
Peng fled China soon after writing the warning later, and had been granted refugee status and settled with his family in the United States. But he was kidnapped by Chinese agents on the Thai-Myanmar border during a visit to Thailand in 2004 to visit his elderly parents.
Brought back to China, Peng was sentenced on Oct. 12, 2005, to life imprisonment after being found guilty of "organizing and leading a terrorist organization," "kidnapping," and "possessing counterfeit money."
He had founded the banned China Development Union (CDU), an intellectual and environment research group that advocated moderate democratic reform and a more eco-friendly economic model.
Born on Oct. 11, 1956 in Hubei, Peng had previously been arrested in January 1999 and accused of visiting prostitutes, a charge that has been used against a number of dissidents in recent years.
He was sentenced without a trial to 18 months in a police-run labor camp for "re-education" after he published his book The Fourth Landmark in Hong Kong in 1998.
In the book, Peng calls for China to find a mode of development suited to its immense population and limited resources rather than to try to surpass Western countries with unrestrained industrialization.
Reported by Qiao Long for RFA's Mandarin Service, and by the Cantonese Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.