16-year-old arrested in online rumour case claims brutal beating, threats by police

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 12 November, 2013, 5:55pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 12 November, 2013, 6:17pm

A 16-year old boy in Gansu has claimed he was physically abused by police officers during detention at a local police station.

Teenager Yang Hui became a familiar face to the country after a photograph of him posing with a defiant look, firm stare and a “V for victory” hand gesture, taken as he was released from a detention centre in Zhangjiachuan county, western Gansu province in September, went viral.

Yang had been arrested for posting comments online about what he described as a slow police investigation into a local karaoke bar worker’s death, which was deemed by the authorities as “spreading rumours”. He was sentenced to seven days in administrative detention but later pardoned as he was under-age.

In the last few days Yang has said on his Sina Weibo account that he had been repeatedly assaulted by five or six police officers during his detention. He said the law enforcers slapped him on the face and kicked him hard in the chest, and that he had his head slammed against the back of a chair.

Yang explained in a post that he had kept silent over the alleged maltreatment for more than a month out of fear, as police officers had allegedly threatened him that he should not speak out over the abuse if he wanted to continue living and attending school in the area.

The Zhangjiachuan county police bureau was not available for comment on Tuesday. But a spokesperson of the police force rebuffed the claim during an interview with Guangzhou-based Southern Metropolis Daily last week. “[We] didn’t even harm a hair on his head,” the police officer was quoted as saying.

Yang’s attorney, Chongqing-based lawyer You Feizhu, in a telephone interview on Tuesday said he had started gathering evidence on the alleged abuse and would file a lawsuit against the Zhangjiachuan police officers at the appropriate time.

Beside the accusations of abuse, Yao also said he disputed the reasons behind Yang’s detention in September and would file a formal administrative reconsideration request within the next two days for a review on the initial verdict. He also demanded compensation from the government for what he called “mal-criminal detention” that resulted in Yang’s arrest in the first place.

A number of internet users online also called for police to release footage of the interrogation as Yang claimed that a police video camera had recorded the entire process.

Yang has largely been viewed as a victim of an extensive government campaign against online rumours which has led to at least dozens of people across the nation being arrested. As the youngest known person to be arrested, he has drawn widespread sympathy among internet users in China, many of whom have called the crackdowns a suppression of freedom of speech on the internet.

After the glare of the media spotlight fell on the case, sharp-eyed online users dug up online records and quickly found a previous judgment showing that the police chief was himself had been linked to bribery activities several years ago. This revelation eventually led to the police chief’s suspension.