Minitrue: “Lei Yang Dies After Visiting Prostitute”

The following instructions, issued to the media by government authorities, have been leaked and distributed online. The name of the issuing body has been omitted to protect the source.

Remove reports relating to “ Dying After Visiting Prostitute” from prominent positions on front pages. Published news must ensure source standards. Delete or close discussions on comment sections if requested by higher authorities. Those in charge of controlling website editors’ social media accounts and posts, do not allow any serious discrepancies in the expression of news media positions. (May 11, 2016) [Chinese]

29-year-old Changping, Beijing resident Lei Yang died while in policy custody last weekend. There were major discrepancies between the story given to his family, and his family’s knowledge of his whereabouts—the latter suggesting that visiting a prostitute the the night of his death was impossible. An earlier propaganda directive from May 10 (also translated by CDT) ordered coverage to adhere to official standards.

The story sparked outrage online, and there has been suspicion of official use of the “water army” to steer public opinion on the case: CDT Chinese earlier reported on many comments expressing support for the police—some even condoning death as a punishment for visiting prostitutes—from accounts that appeared less than authentic.

The case stokes long-held public concern regarding excessive force by police in China. At The New York Times, Did Kirsten Tatlow reports, highlighting one Weibo comment which expresses the view of many outraged netizens, and also notes official coverage of the case and the public view of it:

“Lei Yang is dead. I don’t care what his job was, or what his political views were,” a user identified as Shazi Laoqi wrote. The commenter added, “I just care that he’s dead, and that he died while being detained. And all the things that are supposed to aid police during the process of detention were missing — they didn’t bring their recording equipment, mobile phones that recorded it were damaged, close circuit cameras in the area were all broken.”

On Wednesday, 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 antiprostitution raid in Changping, a northern district of Beijing, where Mr. Lei was reportedly picked up shortly after 9 p.m. on Saturday. […]

[…] A headline in Global Times, which is owned by People’s Daily, suggested that winning public trust over the case would be an uphill battle. “Police struggle to convince public of proper conduct of investigation over man’s death,” it read. […] [Source]

The South China Morning Post’s Mimi Lau reports on an online petition launched by students at Renmin University, Lei’s alma mater:

An online petition launched by alumni at Renmin University, where Yang, 29, graduated with a master’s degree in environmental science in 2009, said the authorities’ claim he died while trying to escape arrest by plain-clothes police officers was unconvincing.

“It is hard to believe that Yang, as a father of a newborn, would solicit while heading to the airport [to fetch a relative],” the petition said.

“And the handling of prostitution cases should be done by uniformed officers who bear a proper police badge … but the police in Changping district did not do that. It’s shocking.” […] [Source]

真Since directives are sometimes communicated orally to journalists and editors, who then leak them online, the wording published here may not be exact. The date given may indicate when the directive was leaked, rather than when it was issued. CDT does its utmost to verify dates and wording, but also takes precautions to protect the source. See CDT’s collection of Directives from the Ministry of Truth since 2011.