China’s Answer to a Crime Includes Amateur Sleuths

The New York Times covers the “eluding the cat” investigation, in which provincial propaganda officials called on netizens to help solve a case of death in police custody:

Rather than suppress the accusations by erasing the Web postings, provincial officials invited the public to help solve the case. They sorted through 1,000 volunteers and picked a 15-member committee that would visit the scene of the crime, cull the evidence and “discover the truth.”

The results ultimately proved dispiriting to those who hoped for a thorough investigation of the police. But the case riveted the public and fueled a frank discussion online and in the state-run media about the extent — and the limits — of official attempts to shape popular opinion.

In explaining his motives for a citizen investigation, Wu Hao, an official in Yunnan’s propaganda department, said he was hoping to restore the public’s faith in a government that could be unresponsive and at times hostile to accusations of misconduct. In an interview with Chinese reporters this week, he acknowledged that the authorities could have easily quashed the debate by censoring the Internet or could have stonewalled the calls for justice.

Read more about this case via CDT.

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