Chinese police will reopen an investigation into the death of a teenage girl after accusations of a cover-up led to rioting in a southwest town, a state news agency reported yesterday.
The widespread protests in Weng’an, a town in Guizhou Province, stemmed from the official report on the death of a high school student and allegations that one suspect was related to a local official, residents said.
Residents believe Li Shufen (李樹芬) — whose body was pulled from a river on June 22 — was raped and murdered. An initial police report found that the girl had drowned, causing 30,000 people to swarm the streets in anger on Saturday, Xinhua news agency reported.
Xinhua had quoted vice county chief Xiao Song as saying that a preliminary investigation found no links between children of local officials and the girl.
But Xinhua reported yesterday that the investigation would be reopened.
“The provincial government has sent 10 criminal investigators and forensic experts to reinvestigate the death,” it said.
The Hong Kong-based Information Center for Human Rights and Democracy said that in the original investigation, officials had questioned three young men, but let them go.
In the unrest, the local police building was set on fire and its windows were broken. By yesterday, burned out cars had been removed from the front of the building and parts of town were returning to normal, with residents shopping and walking around.
Security remained tight, with paramilitary police lining the streets.
Provincial Communist Party Secretary Shi Zongyuan (石宗源) visited the area to stress “the importance of social stability,” Xinhua said.
“We must put maintaining social harmony and stability on the top of our agenda,” Shi was quoted as saying.
The provincial public security bureau said yesterday that its chief was at a meeting and did not comment. The Weng’an Public Security Bureau lines rang busy.
Authorities have rounded up 300 people accused of taking part in Saturday’s riot, the Hong Kong rights group said.
The unrest is especially sensitive for China ahead of the Beijing Olympics next month and officials have repeatedly stressed the need to keep order.
Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) and top security officials have issued important instructions for the case, the Guizhou Daily said.
Riots and protests by local citizens over official corruption, land confiscation and a growing gap between the rich and poor have been an increasing problem for China’s leaders in recent years.
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