Calm was restored to the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen yesterday after hundreds of rioters attacked police to protest the death of a motorcyclist, police and witnesses said.
Anger flared when Li Guochao (李國超), 31, crashed into a lamppost after a local official threw a walkie-talkie at him as he sped away from a checkpoint, the city’s public security bureau said in a statement.
Protests, led by Li’s angry family, broke into anti-police violence on Friday afternoon and lasted until the early hours yesterday, with rioters burning a police car, the statement said.
The protest was the latest in a series of confrontations over social issues in China, where tens of thousands of riots erupt each year, many stemming from grievances over abuse of power, corruption or land grabs.
The street where the violence took place had returned to normal yesterday afternoon, with vendors working and shops open, a reporter at the scene said.
There was a beefed up police presence outside the station near where the riots took place.
“There were thousands of people trying to get close to the police station,” said one shop owner, who witnessed the riots.
“They tried to turn over the police car and people were smashing the windows with knives,” said the woman, who did not want to be named.
The police statement said the official who threw the walkie-talkie was not a police officer, and that the only police presence was a traffic officer 300m away from the checkpoint.
“However, the relatives of Li Guochao thought that the checkpoint was organized by the police,” the statement said.
Li had been stopped at the checkpoint in the city’s Bao’an district, the statement said. He was carrying a passenger, who got off before Li sped away. An official tried to block his path, but was ignored and then threw the walkie-talkie at Li, who lost control of his motorcycle and then crashed into the lamppost, the statement said.
He was taken to hospital where he died a few hours later, the statement said.
Li’s relatives called together a group of around 30 people and at around 2:30pm, they carried Li’s body to the police station, “smashed things” and started setting off firecrackers, the statement said.
By 5pm, more than 400 people had gathered at the police detachment with more than 2,000 others watching nearby. Some people threw stones and set fire to a police car, the statement said.
Police were only able to disperse the crowd at 2am. There were no other reports of injuries.
The official who threw the walkie-talkie has been detained by police, the statement said.
Shenzhen is a thriving city of more than 8 million people, lying just across the border from Hong Kong.
It has been transformed from a fishing village over the past 30 years after it was chosen by former leader Deng Xiaoping (鄧小平) to be at the vanguard of economic reforms.
People living in the area said the checkpoints had been set up to enforce a ban on motorcycles, set up after a spate of muggings by riders who snatched handbags.
One taxi driver in Shenzhen said it was widely believed that some of the police in the area were corrupt.
“The police say they are working for the people, but what actually happens is they just work for money,” said the driver, who only gave his surname as Ma.
In June, tens of thousands of people rioted in southwest Guizhou Province over claims police had covered up the alleged rape and murder of a teenage girl.