A petitioner who had spent two years seeking redress for the demolition of his ancestral home in Fuzhou, Fujian, died last week after unidentified thugs severely beat him and forcibly injected him with toxic chemicals, fellow petitioners said.
Mao Qiping, 58, who had led petitioners from Fuzhou in taking their grievances over land confiscation to central authorities in Beijing several times since 2010, was followed by several unidentified men holding metal bars as he went to work at his apiary on Tuesday of last week, said fellow petitioner Li Kuichun , who spoke to Mao hours before he died.
He said Mao was beaten from behind until he became semiconscious and was held down while a toluene solution was injected into his legs.
Mao was then dumped in a ditch and was found by farmers around 5am the next day. Police took him to a hospital, where he died last Thursday, Li said.
'They wanted to make it look like he fell,' said Li. He said police in Fuzhou had also told Mao's relatives that he fell to his death and threatened to prosecute people who disputed their account.
When Li saw Mao at the hospital last Thursday, he was semi-conscious, but insisted on telling him about the assault in as much detail as possible. His two legs were swollen and his body was icy cold, Li said, adding that he had seen the needle marks from the forced injection.
'He said he was retaliated against and that some people were after him,' Li said, adding later, 'The cadres hate his guts.'
After Mao died, villagers took his body to the Ninghua Street government office for further investigation into the cause of death, but more than 100 plain-clothes police officers and security guards stormed the office and took the body, Li said.
The suspicious circumstances surrounding Mao's death follow repeated accusations against local authorities over the mysterious deaths of rights activists, including Wukan village representative Xue Jinbo in Guangdong last year and of Hunan June 4 dissident Li Wangyang .
Officials said Xue died of natural causes while in custody and Li had hanged himself in hospital.
A doctor at the Fuzhou General Hospital of the People's Liberation Army's Nanjing Military Command said yesterday she had no idea of the cause of death.
An officer at the Public Security Bureau in Fuzhou refused to comment on Mao's death.
Meanwhile another petitioner, Yu Rufa, died in mysterious circumstances in Cangzhou, Hebei, last week after being taken away by local police for attempting to seek help from the US embassy in Beijing, Voice of America radio reported.
The 73-year-old was said to have been taken away after failing to escape to the embassy last Thursday. Relatives found him dead outside their front door two days later.