Prisoner Dies After ‘Having Nightmare’

Two months ago, news that prisoner Li Qiaoming died during the Chinese game “eluding the cat” sparked widespread furor across the Internet. This week, many Chinese are expressing anger and confusion at news that a prisoner in Jiangxi died after “having a nightmare.”

Chutian Metropolis Daily reports more on the story. Selectively translated by CDT:

“While in detention for criminal charges, 50-year-old brother suddenly died in Jiujiang of Jiangxi Province while in custody.” On March 30, family member Li Wenfu of Hanyang in Hubei Province reacted to the events that lead up to the incident.

According to Li Wenfu, elder brother Li Wenyan went to Jiujiang to work in May and had little contact with family. On March 27 of this year at 10AM, Jiujiang City Detention Center contacted his sister-in-law to notify her that Liu Wenyan was gravely ill, and that they needed to come immediately. At 12 in the afternoon, officials sent word to say that Li Wenyan had already died.

While the family was still speculating on the incident, at 6PM, Jiujiang Detention Center official Wei Liuqiang and another official in blue quickly arrived in Wuhan, accompanied by local police officials. They came to sister-in-law’s house to report that Li Wenyan had already died around 2:40AM. “Big brother Li Wenyan’s death struck the entire family as incredibly sudden,” said Li Wenfu. Before this, he did not even know that his brother was being held in custody. nightmare1



In the afternoon of March 30, a reporter accompanied Li Wenfu and his family to the funeral parlor in Jiujiang City. After repeated requests, at 3PM, Li Wenyan’s family members and the reporter saw him for the last time. What the family members never imagined to see, however, were the green and purple bruises on Li Wenyan’s forehead.

An official stated that towards the latter part of the case, he had telephoned Li Wenyan’s sister-in-law, Ren Yichun. However, for some unknown reason, Li’s family never came to visit.

Ren Yichun told the reporter that she had never felt nonchalant towards her brother-in-law’s situation, but she thought the phone call was some sort of ruse. Two years prior, she had received a long-distance call telling her that her niece had gotten into a car accident and that she should immediately send 800 yuan. After sending the money, she realized that she had been duped. Because of the impact of this incident, she didn’t believe the public security officer’s call. Also, she thought to herself that police agents would have followed some sort of procedure, and not simply made a telephone call.

As for the event of Li’s death, Jiujiang Detention Center told the reporter that on March 27, Li Wenyan had cried out during a nightmare but did not wake up. After that, they found that his pulse was weak. At the hospital, he was beyond saving. Jiujiang’s Lushan People’s Hospital issued a death certificate that clearly indicated “sudden death.”

In regards to Li’s forehead, the Jiujiang Detention Center head Zhu Shigen stated that in a few jails, inmates would take advantage of a guard’s negligence and play card games. As penalties for losing, one might have to drink unboiled water or get finger flicks to the forehead. However, could this account for the forehead’s bruises the family saw? Where did they truly come from? They wanted further investigation.

[…] 范警官又介绍:在后期案件侦办过程中,他们掌握到李文彦的弟媳任怡春的电话,并给任怡春打去电话,可不知为何,李的家人一直没有来看守所探望。

任怡春告诉记者,她并非对大哥的被抓感到漠不关心,而是怀疑打来的电话是个骗局。因为在两年前,她接到一个外地电话,对方称她的侄女出车祸了,赶紧汇800 元钱来,等她汇钱去后,才发现上当受骗。受这件事影响,她没有相信这个自称公安人员的电话,她心里只是觉得,警方办案应该会有一套程序,而不是简单地打个电话。



nightmare2An official told the family members of the deceased that this year on January 1st, citizens reported to a local police station that three suspects [including Li] were apprehended on the scene for stealing an electrical cable. During the trial, the three pleaded not guilty. Following this, the three were transferred to the Shuishang office’s criminal investigation department of the Bureau of Public Security.

Accounts of the causes of Li’s bruises and later death have been held in suspicion by many netizens. Another issue they find question with is that there is no surveillance video recording for the time during which Li died.


According to some commentators, the people’s right to know is not a trivial or entertaining issue. In investigating this, the media and the people all have enough wisdom and patience — if they do not grant even a little wisdom or patience, then their remaining fear would be a scolding and they would continue in their endless speculation. From all of this, there is a loss of confidence in the party and the government. I wish that this “death by nightmare” phrase was an April Fool’s joke, and nothing more [news of the incident broke on April 1st].

Read more from CDT about the “eluding the cat” incident. The Chinese government recently announced it is launching an investigation into abuse of detainees.


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