Beijing custody death suggests police brutality
from various sources – October 2017
submitted by – Sobia Begum Hussain
News updates will be listed at the foot of this item
Lei Yang was a 29-year-old researcher at Beijing’s prestigious Renmin University, with a newborn daughter, died on 7 May 2016. At 9pm on the fateful night in 2016, police detained Lei at a foot massage parlour on suspicion of soliciting a prostitute. A few hours later, he was dead. The case set off widespread anger over police brutality in China.
According to media reports, Lei was detained as part of crackdown on prostitution. In Chinese culture a “foot massage parlour” is a common euphemism for a brothel on Beijing.
According to official statements from Beijing police, when officers arrived at the massage parlour, Lei resisted arrest. It is claimed that he physically struggled with police for 20 minutes before the officers managed to restrain him. Once he was taken to a car to be driven to a police office, he attempted to escape again. When he arrived at the station, Lei suddenly fell ill and was rushed to a hospital. He was declared dead at 11pm.
The case prompted a huge outpouring on social media in China. The question of what transpired in that short window blazed across the internet in China raising suspicions of police brutality and underscoring a widespread lack of faith in the country’s law enforcement.
Many of the online comments and petitions for justice suggests that people suspected that unjustified police violence was featured in the death of Lei Yang. The comments on Weibo (Chinese version of twitter) summed up many people’s views that the police had acted improperly and that any recording devices that might have offered evidence contradicting their version of events had conveniently gone missing.
His relatives say Lei was on his way to the airport to pick up relatives when he was stopped by the officers. The exact circumstances of Lei’s death were unknown.
Lei’s wife was alerted to his disappearance after relatives waiting for him at the airport called to say he had not shown up. She made more than 40 calls attempting to find Lei, but it was not until after midnight that police called the family asking them to go to the police station, where they were informed of his death.
A day later, police released a short statement online saying Lei had been detained for visiting prostitutes but died suddenly on the way to the police station. Llei’s family have publicly questioned that account.
What police told Lei’s family didn’t add up. Police had stated that Lei had died after ‘falling ill’ at the police station. However, when the family arrived at the hospital to see Lei’s body his arms and forehead were covered in severe bruises. Police prevented them from taking photos of the body, and were later quoted as saying the injuries were as a result of Lei hitting his head on the ground after trying to escape from the police car.
On 11 May the People’s Daily, the mouthpiece of the Communist party, appeared to push back against suspicions of police brutality by publishing a rare detailed interview with the police officer in charge of what the police said was an anti-prostitution raid in Changping, and that police had not used excessive force during the arrest.
Police claimed that DNA collected from a condom at the scene matched Lei, and those statements from other suspects, including a woman who allegedly provided sex to Lei, supported their statements.
Demands for answers as to how Lei died continued to mount. One petition demanded rights for citizen and justice for Lei.
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