China’s New Netizens Voice Suspicions over Death of Village Chief

Another report from the Guardian’s Jonathan Watts, this one about recent cases of online activism in China:

An activist decapitated, a journalist killed, a lawyer beaten, a magazine closed and an embarrassing legal case mysteriously settled out of court. In the past few days China’s netizens have dug their claws into a smorgasbord of crimes and controversies in which the only constant is a reluctance to believe the official version of events.

Such is the scale of the trust deficit and the power of online opinion that police took the remarkable step today of welcoming citizen investigators to help investiagte one of China’s most high-profile cases.

Following a huge internet outcry, they will look into the grisly death of Qian Yunhui, a villager whose neck was severed by the wheels of a truck on a quiet rural road in Xinyi, Zhejiang province, on Saturday. Local officials initially declared the death a “traffic accident”, but photographs of the crushed body spread rapidly online along with speculation that Qian, who had been arrested three times over land disputes, was killed to stop him running for re-election as village chief.

Online scepticism over the official version focused on three key questions: why a roadside surveillance camera was not recording at the time of Qian’s death, why the truck was driving on the wrong side of the road, and why there was no clear sign of impact on its bonnet. The doubters’ case gained credence when a woman told local media she saw Qian being pushed under the wheels of the truck by three masked men wearing white gloves. Officials say the testimony is unreliable because the witness is a drug addict.


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