No charges for five policemen over death of Beijing man while in custody

Plain-clothes officers choked environmental scientist Lei Yang before he died, but their offences were minor, district prosecutors find

PUBLISHED : Friday, 23 December, 2016, 11:15pm
UPDATED : Friday, 23 December, 2016, 11:15pm

Five Beijing police officers investigated over the death in custody of a 29-year-old environmental scientist this year would not face court, after prosecutors decided their offences were “minor”, state media reported on Friday.

Investigators found the five officers choked Lei Yang, the father of a then one-month-old baby boy, shortly before his death. They had also pressed their knees against Lei’s neck and face, and stamped on his face, Xinhua ­reported. About 50 minutes later he was rushed to a nearby hospital, showing no signs of life.

Lei showed signs of suffocating but the officers did not send him to the hospital in time, resulting in his death, the investigation concluded. The officers had also tried to cover up the case and stall investigators by lying.

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Fengtai district procurators said in a statement that the officers were derelict in their duty but the offences were too minor to warrant penalties.

Lei died roughly an hour after he was arrested by plainclothes police in Changping district on May 7.

Police said Lei was arrested for soliciting a prostitute and died of a heart attack after he tried to flee the officers.

Many members of the public questioned the police account and accused the authorities of a cover-up.

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Prosecutors started investigating the five officers in June and soon found that Lei suffocated on his gastric fluid, countering police claims he died of a heart attack.

A spokesman for the prosecutors said Lei’s wounds were not fatal, and his death was closely related to his attempt to escape, especially as he was “full”, according to Beijing news site Qianlong.com.

The police officers repeatedly showed Lei their ID. They also tried to send Lei to hospital, indicating that they did not intend for him to die, the spokesman said.

The officers tried to carry out the operation as instructed by their supervisors, and did not directly cause Lei’s death. The policemen would face internal discipline, the spokesman said.