• Sun
  • Dec 28, 2014
  • Updated: 9:11am
PUBLISHED : Monday, 13 May, 2013, 10:32am
UPDATED : Thursday, 29 August, 2013, 4:13am

Police footage of Beijing migrant worker moments before 'suicide' sparks cover-up claims

Mystery over different clothing in official police surveillance video


Patrick Boehler has published on China and Southeast Asia in four languages for publications in the US, Europe and Asia. After stints with Austria's ministries of defence and foreign affairs in Vienna and Beijing, he began his reporting career in Kuala Lumpur with the Malaysian online news portal Malaysiakini and, later, The Irrawaddy Magazine, a Myanmar exile publication in Thailand. He holds a doctorate in political science and has taught journalism at the University of Hong Kong. Follow him on Twitter: @mrbaopanrui

Police surveillance footage said to show a young migrant worker moments before she fell to her death has sparked accusations of a cover-up after she appeared to be wearing different clothing to that photographed by witnesses at the scene.

Migrant worker Yuan Liya died on May 2 when she fell to her death from a mall in Beijing's Fengtai district, where she worked on afternoons. At the time, rumours spread that she had been raped by security guards before she plunged to her death. Police denied this and said the 22-year-old from Anhui province had committed suicide but they initially refused to release surveillance footage of her entering the building. 

A rare street protest was staged in Beijing last week over the case, after authorities refused to share the video footage with her family. Hundreds of protesters were confronted by rows of riot police in heavy gear.

"Surveillance camera footage shows that the person's movements were free," a Beijing police official Qi Shiming told China Central Television. "She was not followed by anyone or taken hostage."

Immediately after the video footage, which claims to show her walking to the window where she allegedly jumped, was broadcast on Friday, doubts emerged over its authenticity.

In the video footage, she is seen wearing a white skirt, but photos taken of her body when she was found the next morning show her wearing a dark-coloured or black skirt. The news report did not explain the contradiction. 

Many sceptical comments and juxtapositions of the two photos were promptly deleted on Chinese microblogs. Searches for the name of the mall, Jingwen, are still blocked on Sina Weibo, the country's largest microblogging platform.

The protest last week came amid a widespread sense among Chinese migrant workers of being second-class citizens in cities were they lack formal registration.

There are about 230 million migrant labourers in China, including 150 million in big cities.


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