The death of the 29-year-old Beijing resident and environmentalist Lei Yang (雷洋) has sparked national outrage, with many Chinese suspecting that police violence led to his death.
According to police statements, Lei Yang was arrested for visiting a brothel (featured image) and died while resisting his arrest. Camera recordings of his arrest were reportedly unavailable after the police phone device that was used for filming the arrest broke down. But Lei’s family is not satisfied with police reports on the circumstances that led to Lei’s death. Lei just had a baby two weeks earlier and was on the way to the airport to pick up relatives.
The wife of Lei Yang headed to Beijing’s prosecutor’s office with her lawyer on Tuesday, May 17, demanding further investigation into her husband’s death. She also filed a complaint for abuse of power, forgery of evidence, and physical assault. According to the complaint report that circulated on Chinese social media, she alleges that the prostitution story was a setup and that her husband was beaten to death.
Lei Yang Incident
At around 9.00 pm on Saturday night, May 7 2016, Lei Yang left home to pick up some relatives from Beijing airport who came to visit from Hunan to see Lei’s newborn baby girl. On the way to the airport, somewhere between 21:04 and 21:16, Lei arrived near the location of a foot massage parlor, coming from Longjin 3rd Street (these two places and exact times were confirmed through monitoring data according to a Chinese newsblog).
It was within this time frame that Lei was arrested by 5-6 plainclothes officers, allegedly for purchasing sexual services. Shanghai Daily reports that several witnesses saw Lei running from the undercover policemen and screaming for help immediately before his arrest.
According to one officer, Lei had “stopped resisting and was very quiet” in the car on the way to the police station. About 50 minutes after Lei was taken to the Changping district police station, he was rushed to a nearby hospital. Within two hours after his arrest, at 22:55, Lei was pronounced dead.
Family members were notified of Lei’s death at 1:00 am. According to family members who could see Lei’s body under police supervision, he was bruised on his head and arms, and also had other injuries. According to SCMP, they were not allowed to take pictures of the body.
Police state that no excessive force was used during Lei’s arrest, and that DNA evidence from a condom suggests that Lei indeed visited the brothel.
“Sudden death of suspect”
The Changping police station has responded to the incident through its official Weibo account, where they released an offical statement on May 9 and May 11 on the “sudden death of a suspect for prostitution”.
According to the police statement, undercover officers went to the massage parlor after getting a tip about prostitution activities and caught five men visiting prostitutes at the scene. The statement then says that one of suspects, Lei Yang, violently resisted his arrest and bit one of the policemen. During the course of this struggle, the camera equipment of the officer fell and broke. In the car on the way to the police station, Lei allegedly tried to kick the driver and attempted to escape, and had to be controlled and restrained with handcuffs. When the police later discovered his body was lifeless, Lei was taken to the hospital.
This police statement shows much resemblance to a similar case that took place in the Netherlands in 2015 when an Arubian man died during a violent police arrest. Although local police initially stated the man lost consciousness in the car on the way to the station, bystander footage later showed the man already was unconscious during his arrest (story and video).
The Changping police statements on Weibo received over 32.800 comments, with many netizens pleading for evidence.
Social media reactions
The Lei Yang incident has drawn much controversy on Chinese social media for the past week, with many netizens arguing for a thorough investigation of the case. Some Weibo users complained that their posts about the issue were being deleted by censors.
One netizen called Mr. Lu says: “I don’t care if this gets censored, but since Lei Yang’s wife and her lawyer have taken action, you hear all kinds of things coming from the police about visiting prostitutes so and so, but the fact remains that he died. No matter what crime he committed, this family has the right to call his death into question, and we support this right!”
Some netizens stress the importance of this case: “The Lei Yang Case is already the most important incident of 2016. For the people, for the government, for the police, for the media, and for lawmakers.”
There are also netizens who do not find Lei’s death suspicious: “Why is his sudden death so unlikely?” one netizen wonders: “There are people suddenly dying every day, why could this not be the case now?”
Although it is unsure what exactly happened on May 7, most netizens just want to know the truth: “Without investigation, there is no truth. Without the truth, we could be the next Lei Yang.”
“We are angry and scared because we all could be the next Lei Yang,” another Weibo user says: “We follow this case because of our sense of justice, but also because we’re afraid and angry. In a society without respect for life and no dignity and human rights, we could all be led to our death by police – whether we’re visiting a prostitute or not.”
A Shaanxi public security bureau also responded to the case through their Weibo account, saying: “There are many people online who call the voice of the police into question. As colleagues of the Changping police, we analyze this case from a legal and objective point of view, and we will fight back rumors.”
In the meantime, China Daily reports that an autopsy on Lei’s body has been carried out, and that results are expected to be released within 20 days.
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Pregnant Woman Throws Scalding Soup over Baby Girl in Malatang Restaurant
An incident that occurred in Zhoukou city in China’s Henan province on the night of June 11 has gone viral on Chinese social media today.
Security cameras in a malatang (hot spicy soup) restaurant captured the moment a pregnant woman throws a bowl of hot soup at an 11-month-old girl.
The woman was allegedly annoyed because the baby was making noise by banging on the table with a spoon.
Footage making its rounds on social media shows how other customers in the restaurant stand up after witnessing the incident, with some going after the woman.
The baby girl reportedly sustained burn injuries on her back and buttocks.
According to various Chinese media reports, the culprit is a 28-year-old woman by the name of Ren. She received a 15-day prison sentence and a fine of 500 yuan ($72), but will not be detained at this point because she is pregnant.
See the video of the incident here:
The local public security bureau issued a statement on Weibo today, writing that the incident had occurred when Ren was dining at the restaurant together with her husband. She got into an argument with the other diners when their 11-month-old baby would not stop banging on the table.
Shortly after leaving the restaurant with her husband, the pregnant Ren then suddenly returned and threw the hot soup at the family, hurting the baby girl.
On social media, outraged commenters write that they think the woman will not be a good mother: “How can a woman like this raise a child?”
“This makes my hair stand up in anger! It’s just a baby!” others write.
The story is somewhat similar to another incident that went viral on Chinese social media last year, when a pregnant woman intentionally tripped a 4-year-old boy in a malatang restaurant in Baoji (watch video below for the full story).
Zhejiang Movie Theatre Displays Blacklisted Individuals in Avengers Movie Preview
A special ‘trailer’ before the Avengers movie premiere showed the audience blacklisted individuals.
A local movie theatre in the city of Lishui, Zhejiang province, showed a noteworthy ‘trailer’ before the Avengers: End Game premiere on April 24.
Chinese state tabloid Global Times reports that the sold-out premiere had a ‘surprise’ moment just before the movie was about to start: a short Public Service Announcement by the Liandu district court of Lishui displayed people who are currently on a ‘debt dodging black list.’
The short film also informed the cinema audience of potential consequences of being on a blacklist, including no traveling abroad, and no traveling by air or on high-speed trains.
According to Global Times, the local district court has registered a total of 5478 people on its blacklist since 2018.
The names and faces of more than 300 people on this list have reportedly been displayed on cinema screens, public LED screens, and on buildings. Allegedly 80 of them have since complied with court orders.
As part of China’s emerging Social Credit system project, there are public court-issued lists of ‘trust-breaking enforcement subjects’ (信被执行人名单), referring to people or companies who have failed to comply with court orders.
Individuals on the judgment defaulter blacklist system run by the court system, whose information is publicized, can risk having their photos and names displayed on local LED screens on courthouses or other buildings (Dai 2018, 26).
Beyond that, they will face restrictions in various ways, from being denied bank credit to being restricted from staying in high-end hotels or traveling by air.
On Weibo, the Global Times post on the noteworthy cinema preview received over 4000 shares. The same news was also reported by CCTV and Phoenix News.
Some commenters joke about the Public Service Announcement, saying: “Blacklisters [can now say]: Mum! I was on TV! On a big IMAX screen! Together with the Avengers!”
Others leave comments in support of the measure, calling it “creative,” and saying: “This is good, we should implement this all across the country.”
“Blacklisters should be displayed on all kinds of platforms.”
“This is for people to lose on their social credit,” another commenter writes: “If you don’t want to ‘socially die’ then just fulfill your duties.”
But not everyone agrees. “People are buying a movie ticket to see their film,” one person says: “They suddenly get exposed to this kind of content that has nothing to do with them, what about their rights as a consumer?”
By Manya Koetse
Dai, Xin, Toward a Reputation State: The Social Credit System Project of China (June 10, 2018). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3193577 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3193577 [5.3.19].
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