A Chinese man working on an energy project in Pakistan-administered Kashmir was detained yesterday after hundreds of protesters attacked his company offices over the alleged desecration of a Koran, officials said.
Lee Ping, administration manager of a Chinese consortium building the Neelum Jhelum Hydropower project, was accused by Pakistani co-workers of throwing the Koran on the ground.
"We have taken Ping into protective custody after protests erupted in the company when Pakistani labourers saw him throwing the belongings of a Pakistani worker including the Koran," said Sardar Gulfraz, a senior police official.
Lee Ping was moving the belongings of a Pakistani doctor after he had refused to vacate his room for relocation.
"Dr Sajid had a dispute with the company management about the relocation of his room. He refused to vacate the room and Ping threw out all his belongings in anger," said local police official Raja Anser Shahzad. "Local labourers saw Ping throwing out luggage including the Koran and they started protesting.
"Later, people from outside the company also joined the rally and around 1,000 protesters attacked the offices."
Police said the incident happened at midday on Friday, when local Muslims were preparing to offer their main weekly prayers.
Gulfraz said protesters damaged vehicles and broke windows. Extra police were called in to protect the facility "and have also moved Ping to a secret location for protective reasons".
Authorities said a commission had been formed to determine whether Lee Ping was involved in a desecration or not.
Blasphemy is a sensitive issue in Pakistan, where 97 per cent of the 180 million population are Muslims, and even unproved allegations can spark violence.
Rights campaigners argue that the blasphemy laws, for which the maximum penalty is death, are often abused.
Lee Ping "will be charged under the blasphemy law only after this commission confirms that he was involved in a serious violation", Gulfraz said.