After Xu Chunhe was shot and killed by police officer Li Lebin in a train station in Qing’an, Heilongjiang, netizens raised questions about the sequence of events that led to the shooting as well as broader questions about police accountability and treatment of China’s most marginalized citizens. A few days after the incident, CCTV released edited surveillance video, which appeared to show Xu acting aggressively toward Li and throwing his young daughter, and an internal police inquiry cleared Li of wrongdoing. Many observers are still skeptical and are calling for an independent investigation into the killing.
The inquiry clearing the officer and the CCTV video have done little to end the controversy.
Many Net users say the inquiry by railroad police is not reliable because no outside authorities supervised it.
“The reason people are suspicious is because there is little public information about the internal investigation,” said Wu Xingmin, a professor at Guangdong Police College.
Wu said that investigations into controversial police shootings are mainly carried out by police officials, and prosecutors may also be involved. A public security department must submit a report on the incident to prosecutors. In the event of a death, prosecutors must investigate further.
Wu said that over the past decade many debates have erupted over internal investigations by police officials, and the public is mainly concerned that that inquiries are handled by police themselves. [Source]
The official media has spoken out on the need for an independent investigation while also blaming online public opinion for inflaming the situation. Russell Leigh Moses writes in the Wall Street Journal about an editorial in People’s Daily:
It’s unusual for the party’s main newspaper to pay such close attention to an incident involving the transgressions of a single citizen, instead of, say, a mass protest. It’s also unusual to combine that report with an editorial outlining Beijing’s official stance. When that’s happened, it’s been a sharp signal to the paper’s regular readers–many of whom are cadres looking for the correct way to respond to their purported constituents–that the political leadership has a strong opinion about this event.
And here, instead of blaming Xu alone, the editorial admonishes and instructs officials. It cites both faults in society and failings in the way the system responded to those who didn’t immediately buy into Beijing’s narrative. “Facts,” the commentary contends, “should be the sole basis for making judgments.”
At the same time, “it’s not surprising that there’s negative conjecture and concern because of the natural compassion for the weak” in society, the editorial said.
Adding to the challenge, the editorial goes on to note, is that “these days, the hustle-and-bustle of opinion contains high emotions and moral outrage, and there’s less patience to await the findings of a professional investigation.” [Source]
Meanwhile, in Taiyuan, three police officers are facing trial after the killing of a migrant worker who tried to prevent them from taking away her husband and son. A photo of an officer stepping on her hair went viral, generating public anger over police brutality.