Local gangsters blamed for riot after girl's death

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 02 July, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 02 July, 2008, 12:00am

Teen not raped and murdered but jumped into river and drowned, say police

Violent protests that rocked Wengan county, Guizhou , last week were instigated by 'unlawful elements' and 'local gangsters', police said yesterday.

They said the teenager whose death triggered the mass protest was not murdered but jumped into a river and drowned.

The announcement by Guizhou Provincial Public Security Department spokesman Wang Zhengxing apparently was endorsed by provincial Communist Party chief Shi Zongyuan , who visited the county on Monday.

It followed instructions by President Hu Jintao and State Councillor Zhou Yongkang , who were alarmed by the violent clashes sparked by the girl's death.

Extensive damage was done to government property and more than 150 people were injured.

Although Wengan - a remote county with a population of about 460,000 - appeared to have returned to normal yesterday, the area was swamped by armed police.

Mr Wang said Li Shufen , 17, killed herself on June 21 and was not raped and murdered, as was claimed by her family and other local residents.

Mr Wang said police had arrested more than 50 rioters, many allegedly gangsters.

Reports said Shufen's parents yesterday finally agreed to bury their daughter after keeping her body in a refrigerated coffin, but they demanded provincial and county police and prosecutors conduct a joint autopsy first.

Official media denied that Shufen's boyfriend, Chen Guangquan, her classmate Wang Jiao and Chen's friend Liu Yanchao were involved in her death. They went for a late night walk with her after dinner.

Local residents said the three were responsible for Shufen's death and had been quickly released because they were related to local officials and police.

Wang claimed Chen had left the party before Shufen had killed herself and Liu had tried unsuccessfully to save her.

'When Li was chatting with Liu on the bridge, she suddenly said 'I want to jump to the river to kill myself. I will carry on if I survive the jump',' the police spokesman said.

'Liu immediately jumped and tried to save Li ... Wang telephoned Chen, who returned immediately to look for Li.'

Mr Wang said forensic examinations had shown Shufen had drowned and was not raped. He did not suggest why she had wanted to kill herself.

Authorities said Shufen's parents last week had accepted the findings but refused to bury her and demanded 500,000 yuan (HK$569,830) in compensation from Wang, Chen and Liu.

After further persuasion by authorities, the girl's parents - Li Xiuhua and Luo Pingbi - finally agreed to bury their daughter but demanded another autopsy.

Mr Wang yesterday also gave a detailed account of last Saturday's riot, blaming it indirectly on the victim's relatives.

He said about 300 relatives with banners marched to the county's police station.

'Under the instigation of a small group of people, some unlawful members of society used plastic bottles, rocks and bricks to attack policemen,' he said.

'They broke through the policemen's defence and smashed government offices, overturned vehicles and attacked other officers and firemen who came to control the situation.'

Mr Wang said the riots lasted more than seven hours and more than 150 people were injured.

'Police officers have shown great restraint throughout the whole incident and tried their best not to retaliate even when they were attacked by the mobs,' he said.

A storeowner who joined the protest said people were angry but were now keeping quiet because they were worried about their safety.

'We don't have any worthwhile ideas,' the storeowner said sarcastically. 'We can only accept whatever the officials say. I've been used to it since I was a boy in primary school.'

Li Xiuzhong , the dead girl's uncle, said yesterday he had been assaulted by unidentified men last Wednesday after he went to a police station to demand answers over Shufen's death.

'Four to five unidentified men hit me on my head and kicked me when I left the station,' Mr Li, 32, said from his hospital bed.

He said he did not know who his attackers were but suspected they were connected to the police.

Xinhua quoted Shufen's parents and their supporters, her classmates and other protesters as saying she was a good student and could not have killed herself.

'The girl's death was 'abnormal and deplorable',' Xinhua quoted a man who took part in the protest as saying.