Chinese authorities said a young boy hospitalized in Sichuan Province died of poisoning and not from a lack of medical attention, state media reported yesterday, after his death sparked a riot involving 2,000 people.
An investigation by the municipal government of Guangan and Sichuan University's Hospital showed that Xiong Honghui, 4, drank enough pesticide to kill 500 children, the China Daily said.
Protests and resulting clashes with police erupted over the weekend outside the hospital after word spread that it had refused the boy treatment because his grandfather could not first pay 800 yuan (US$100), according to Hong Kong media reports.
The reports said several people were injured during the clashes and at least two police vans were overturned by protesters.
Human rights activists said the rioters were giving vent to growing discontent over rising medical costs, a lack of health insurance for ordinary people and hospitals which refuse to treat those who cannot pay.
"Medics at Guangan Number 2 People's Hospital immediately pumped the boy's stomach and gave him a drip, but he died an hour later because he had drunk too much pesticide," Guangan vice mayor Yuan Xianfeng told the China Daily.
The paper made no mention of the charge that the hospital had first demanded payment.
Local residents said on Monday the hospital had been closed and that there was a heavy police presence around the building. Telephone calls to the hospital went unanswered yesterday.
Yuan confirmed to the newspaper that about 2,000 people had surrounded the hospital during the height of tensions, but there was no mention of a riot.