Mourning for boy erupts into violence

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 07 December, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 07 December, 2010, 12:00am

What started as a simple public mourning over the death of a five-year-old boy at a hospital in Jiangsu turned violent on Sunday.

More than 1,000 people - some said thousands - clashed with riot police, damaging the hospital's main building.

The incident at Zhangjiagang No 1 People's Hospital displayed vividly the tensions and distrust between hospitals and patients, with the public readily sympathising with the patient in a dispute.

Xia Chensen died after an injection on November 28, and Sunday was the seventh day after his death - the first important mourning day according to Chinese tradition.

The mourners began to gather from about 9am after hearing about the death; some came from neighbouring cities just to lay flowers at the hospital, said Xia Xiaohao , Chensen's father.

However, the peaceful mourning was interrupted by police and unidentified people who removed the flowers by force. Riot police arrived soon after and prevented people from entering the hospital.

Clashes then broke out.

As more people gathered, police had to send for reinforcements. Xia said he saw thousands of riot police outside the hospital as tensions rose.

The crowd inside the hospital also vented their anger. Pictures posted online showed shattered glass and a broken reception table.

Xia said he was asked to leave the hospital after 10.30am.

The crowd dispersed after 1.30pm, according to Xinhua.

Reports said some people were beaten up by the police, while Zhangjiagang government officials denied anyone had been detained.

One official, who gave his surname as Lu, said they were investigating the incident.

Xia denied that his family had paid thugs to intimidate the hospital, saying he was surprised by the turnout at the public mourning, which he put at 'several thousands'.

'My wife and I came to work in Zhangjiagang after graduation. We have no connections here,' he said. 'Many people, who were total strangers, came to my house to express their condolences. I was very touched.'

Xia had gone online to write about his anger and frustration and won sympathy from many. One posting on received more than 300,000 clicks.

Xia said he took Chensen to hospital after he vomited and had a mild fever. At the hospital, he was told his son was suffering from the flu, and the doctor prescribed an intravenous injection.

Five minutes later, the boy complained of abdominal pain, and his condition quickly deteriorated. He died soon after.

'I watched my son die in my arms and couldn't do anything,' Xia said.

Xia refused to allow an autopsy to be carried out because of traditional beliefs. He also rejected a drug test by the government for fear the result might be manipulated.

Experts said the diagnosis and emergency treatment had been proper.

Xia said what angered him most was the hospital's indifference and refusal to meet the family afterwards. They stayed at the hospital for two days but were denied a meeting with either the doctor who prescribed the drug or the hospital's chief.

'The deputy chief of the hospital came on the second day and said I needed to move the body,' Xia said. 'That was it.'

Lu said the vice-president of the hospital, the head of the paediatric department, the doctor who treated Chensen and a pharmacist had been suspended.