Hundreds of angry passers-by hurled bricks and bottles at police and overturned and set fire to police vehicles in a protest after the officers were accused of beating a driver to death in southeastern Sichuan yesterday.
Video clips and photographs said to be taken at the scene in Luzhou , and widely circulated online, showed hundreds of protesters surrounding a man lying on the ground and a few policemen. The protesters were then seen overturning and setting fire to at least three police vehicles.
However, one witness said the police had not beaten the man. She said she believed he could have died from a heart attack.
"At around 5.30pm, I rushed to the scene, which is around 100 metres from my office, and saw that the victim, who was then surrounded by three traffic policemen, was suffering from some kind of heart attack, before asking someone to help him to get his drugs from his vehicle," she said.
She said the man, in his 40s, was a fish vendor in the street where she worked.
"I left the scene when the man was still conscious after having swallowed two drug tablets," she said. "When someone told me the man had died, I went back to the scene at about 6.30pm and found out that was true."
She said she had not noticed any injuries on the man's body.
But rumours that he had died from a police beating circulated quickly in the city, and around 1,000 protesters turned up at the scene, she said. Some shouted "hand over the killer", some threw bricks, stones or glass bottles at the police, and others overturned police vehicles before setting them alight.
Online reports said the police had to fire tear gas to disperse the crowd. Luzhou police declined to comment last night.