Mainland and HK Police Probed Over Alleged Abuse

Beijing prosecutors launched a further investigation this Wednesday into five individuals involved in the death of Lei Yang, a 29-year-old environmentalist who died in police custody last month after being detained outside a massage parlor in Changping for allegedly soliciting prostitutes. Choi Chi-yuk at South China Morning Post reports:

Beijing’s Changping district prosecution department completed a preliminary investigation a few days ago into the death of Lei, who had been held by local police on suspicion of soliciting prostitutes, according to the official Weibo account of Beijing’s procuratorate.

The department said it had concluded that the case met the conditions for further a investigation.

On Wednesday the procuratorate’s website said five people, including a police officer, were to be investigated over Lei’s unexplained death.

Lei, a graduate of the prestigious Renmin University in Beijing, who worked for an environmental organisation affiliated with the mainland government, was detained after being intercepted by a number of plainclothes officers before being found dead while in a custody on May 7. [Source]

Although coverage of Lei’s death was swiftly controlled with online commentary closely monitored, the incident nonetheless sparked widespread outrage with internet users criticizing the police for using excessive force and questioning whether they too could become victims of similar abuse. In response to the public outcry, President Xi Jinping and Public Security Minister Guo Shengkun have vowed to put in place tougher regulations to rein in police brutality and abuse of power .

The New York Times’ Edward Wong has more on Lei’s case:

One of the most detailed official accounts appeared on May 11 in People’s Daily, the Communist Party newspaper. The officer in charge of the Dongxiaokou station in Changping, Xing Yongrui, said in an interview with the paper that the police had detained Mr. Lei in an anti-prostitution raid. Mr. Xing said Mr. Lei had bitten police officers and tried to escape twice. It took five officers 20 minutes to subdue Mr. Lei, Mr. Xing was quoted as saying.

The police said Mr. Lei had a heart attack in custody and was declared dead at a hospital, according to Chinese news reports. A report by Xinhua, the state news agency, quoted family members as saying that they had seen bruises on Mr. Lei’s head and arms.

On Wednesday, the Beijing Procuratorate said on its official microblog that the preliminary investigation into the episode had been completed, and that Mr. Lei “was suspected of visiting a brothel and died after the police took enforcement measures.” [Source]

Elsewhere, Chantal Yuen at HKFP reports that seven Hong Kong officers accused of assaulting a demonstrator during the 2014 Occupy protests will stand trial this week. The police were caught on video showing them repeatedly kicking and punching the victim while several stood guard. Key words related to the incident were later blocked from Weibo search results.

The group of seven comprise of a chief inspector, a senior inspector and five junior officers. The officers are from the Organised Crime and Triad Bureau, the Kwun Tong and Kowloon City Regional Police departments and the Kowloon Regional Headquarters.

Each was charged with wounding or striking with intent to do grievous bodily harm. One of them was charged with an extra count of common assault. The seven pleaded not guilty.

The case was adjourned until Thursday after the prosecution said that more time was needed to read Tsang’s statement. The defence also said that it needed more time to read over 500 pages of new documents, after which the judge adjourned the case until Thursday afternoon. Tsang gave a new statement to the police on Tuesday. [Source]

See further updates on the trial at HKFP. Tsang himself was sentenced on Monday to five weeks in prison for assaulting police by pouring liquid on them, and three weeks, served concurrently, for resisting arrest.