Protests in China at official 'cover-up' of teenager's death

It is the latest explosive example of how political corruption in China can have a dangerously destabilising impact. Thousands of rioters torched police cars and government office buildings in the south-western province of Guizhou after allegations that local officials covered up a teenage girl's death.

It started with the rape and murder of a 15-year-old girl. The story that flashed around Weng'an county was that three men were responsible, two of them with great "guangxi", or local connections. One of them was reportedly the son of the deputy mayor. When the police report said she had killed herself, tensions really began to simmer. When her popular schoolteacher uncle went to the police to seek justice, he was beaten into a coma and subsequently died. The tensions turned into rioting.

Lacking formal means to vent their anger, the people of Weng'an turned the town upside down, and the YouTube website carried shocking pictures of burning police cars and local government offices.

The scenes of mayhem and anarchy are the ones the Communist Party fears most as it is always worried that dissent could spread nationwide. Corruption at local level is something the Chinese government has vowed to wipe out, and last week it introduced a five-year plan to combat it.

Eyewitnesses reported one death and many injuries in the riots. At around 4am yesterday morning, police used megaphones to urge people to leave the area, and local television stations broadcast notices asking people who participated in the protest to turn themselves in. The riots even made it on to the official Xinhua news agency, which ran a brief story and blamed the riots on unhappiness about the official ruling over the girl's death.

"Some people who did not know about the exact context of what had happened were instigated to mob the police station and the office buildings of the county government and Communist Party committee," it said, without giving details of what the official finding was or the cause of death. It said that order had been restored.

According to the Hong Kong-based Information Centre for Human Rights and Democracy, more than 10,000 people took to the streets in the protests, with up to 150 people injured in clashes with police. The local Communist Party HQ was badly damaged.

Another 1,500 paramilitary and riot police had been deployed to the county and police arrested nearly 200 rioters. Yesterday, they were using the video footage posted online to round up others caught ransacking the three government and police buildings.

Public dissent of any kind is not tolerated in China. After the 12 May earthquake, parents of children who died in shoddily built schools were arrested when they tried to protest against official corruption which led to the bad building practice in the schools where their offspring had perished.

Xinhua said the Guizhou government has taken measures to "appropriately" handle the situation.

The internet was abuzz with stories of the girl's plight, and the state crackdown on the rioters. Opening the sites was difficult as the Great Firewall of China descended to make it difficult to open them. The timing of the riots is bad for President Hu Jintao's government.

Anti-Chinese riots in Tibet in March prompted a tough response by the Chinese authorities, earning Beijing international condemnation. However, a lot of international goodwill was restored by the relatively open response to the Sichuan earthquake, allowing foreign donations into the country.

The country is trying to present a stable and harmonious image ahead of the Beijing Olympic Games in August. A local official said the girl's family had rejected the authorities' offer of 3,000 yuan (£220) compensation, later increased to 30,000 yuan (£2,200), and residents had donated money to the family to sue local authorities.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Voices
Lucerne’s Hotel Château Gütsch, one of the lots in our Homeless Veterans appeal charity auction
charity appeal
Life and Style
A woman walks by a pandal art installation entitled 'Mars Mission' with the figure of an astronaut during the Durga Puja festival in Calcutta, India
techHow we’ll investigate the existence of, and maybe move in with, our alien neighbours
Arts and Entertainment
Tony Hughes (James Nesbitt) after his son Olly disappeared on a family holiday in France
tv
News
people

Jo from Northern Ireland was less than impressed by Russell Brand's attempt to stage a publicity stunt

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Sport
Nabil Bentaleb (centre) celebrates putting Tottenham ahead
footballTottenham 4 Newcastle 0: Spurs fans dreaming of Wembley final after dominant win
Arts and Entertainment
The Apprentice candidates Roisin Hogan, Solomon Akhtar, Mark Wright, Bianca Miller, Daniel Lassman
tvReview: But which contestants got the boot?
Arts and Entertainment
Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels ride again in Dumb and Dumber To
filmReview: Dumb And Dumber To was a really stupid idea
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Ian McKellen tempts the Cookie Monster
tvSir Ian McKellen joins the Cookie Monster for a lesson on temptation
News
i100
Travel
Tourists bask in the sun beneath the skyscrapers of Dubai
travelBritish embassy uses social media campaign to issue travel advice for festive holiday-makers in UAE
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst

£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established media firm based in Surrey is ...

Ashdown Group: Java Developer - Hertfordshire - £47,000 + bonus + benefits

£40000 - £470000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: Java Developer / J2EE Devel...

Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Director - London - £70,000

£70000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Controller - Fina...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive - Nationwide - OTE £65,000

£30000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This small technology business ...

Day In a Page

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

Homeless Veterans campaign

Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

Meet Racton Man

Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

Garden Bridge

St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

Joint Enterprise

The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

Freud and Eros

Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum
France's Front National and the fear of a ‘gay lobby’ around Marine Le Pen

Front National fear of ‘gay lobby’

Marine Le Pen appoints Sébastien Chenu as cultural adviser
'Enhanced interrogation techniques?' When language is distorted to hide state crimes

Robert Fisk on the CIA 'torture report'

Once again language is distorted in order to hide US state wrongdoing
Radio 1’s new chart host must placate the Swifties and Azaleans

Radio 1 to mediate between the Swifties and Azaleans

New chart host Clara Amfo must placate pop's fan armies
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'It's life, and not the Forces, that gets you'

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'It's life, and not the Forces, that gets you'

The head of Veterans Aid on how his charity is changing perceptions of ex-servicemen and women in need
Torture: It didn't work then, it doesn't work now

Torture: It didn't work then, it doesn't work now

Its use is always wrong and, despite CIA justifications post 9/11, the information obtained from it is invariably tainted, argues Patrick Cockburn