Social Justice

China to release autopsy of former student who died in police custody

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 14 May, 2016, 4:01am
UPDATED : Saturday, 14 May, 2016, 4:00am

Beijing authorities have promised to release the results of an independent autopsy and investigate surveillance footage of an arrest amid a national outcry over the death of a 29-year-old man in police custody last weekend.

Beijing prosecutors said the family of environmental scientist Lei Yang had appointed an unnamed independent third party to carry out the autopsy, which was already under way, Xinhua reported. The autopsy could take up to a month, The Procuratorate Daily reported yesterday.

Former students call for full inquiry into ‘suspicious’ death of Beijing university alumnus in police custody

Police said Lei, a graduate of Renmin University, was arrested by plain-clothes officers on Saturday night in Beijing’s suburban Changping district for allegedly soliciting a prostitute and was dead within hours of being detained. Police offered several versions of Lei’s alleged attempts to resist arrest and arranged for a prostitute to testify on the capital’s TV network against him.

But Lei’s family said he was on his way to the airport to pick up a relative when he was arrested.

Five lawyers had been appointed to represent Lei’s family, who were demanding a full investigation, Caixin reported.

Xinhua quoted prosecutors as saying authorities were interviewing Lei’s family, witnesses and police officers who handled Lei’s case, as well carrying out a forensic examination of the scene where he was arrested.

Chinese death in custody raises family and public fears of police brutality

Lei’s death has dominated national headlines and been the focus of intense social media discussion. Professor Zhan Jiang, from Beijing Foreign Studies University, said this was due to Lei’s background and the diversion of censors’ attention to other issues.

“No one would have thought this could happen in the capital, China’s best-managed city, and to a middle-class resident who graduated from a university with influential alumni,” Zhan said.

He said Lei’s death aroused middle-class fears about personal safety and capped years of discontent over police abuses of power.

“The longer it drags on, the more it damages the credibility of the government and police,” Zhan said.