Woman to Sue Over Police Killing of Her Son in China's Heilongjiang

2015-05-12
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Lawyer visits mother of shooting victim Xu Chunhe in hospital, May 11, 2015.
Lawyer visits mother of shooting victim Xu Chunhe in hospital, May 11, 2015.
Photo courtesy of lawyer Xie Yang

The mother of a man shot dead by police in China's northeastern province of Heilongjiang has rejected a compensation offer from the government, saying she has hired lawyers to pursue the police officer responsible, media reports said on Tuesday.

Xu Chunhe was killed in a police shooting incident in front of his elderly mother and three young children at a railway station in Heilongjiang's Suihua city earlier this month, and while a police investigation has claimed he was in the wrong, the authorities have offered the family 200,000 yuan (U.S.$32,198) in compensation.

But Xu's mother, Qian Yushun, who was placed in an elderly care facility by police following the incident, has hired lawyers to bring the officer who shot her son to justice, the Guangzhou-based Southern Metropolis Daily newspaper said.

One of Qian's lawyers, Xie Yanyi, said the internal police investigation into the shooting was an ambiguous affair.

"It wasn't made clear whether this case was actually registered, or whether or not it was a criminal investigation," Xie told RFA on Tuesday.

"There is also crucial information about the facts of the case which isn't provided."

Xie said the shooting comes against the political background of a fraud investigation announced on Tuesday into Suihua municipal party secretary Dong Guosheng, which Xie said will have an impact on how Xu's shooting is handled.

Threat to the public?

Xu, 45, got into a confrontation with an officer in China's railway police at Suihua's Qing'an station on May 2.

Police later claimed he was assaulting police and posing obvious threat to public security, Xinhua news agency reported at the time.

"The middle-aged man ... forcibly prevented passengers from going through the security inspection gate," the agency quoted a railway police spokesman as saying.

"When a policeman on patrol tried to stop him, the man picked up a child and threw him at the police. In the chaos, he also tried to grab the policeman's gun and club," it said.

Police officer Li Lebin opened fire to keep the passengers safe, but called for emergency medical assistance soon after, Xinhua said.

Excessive force

Rights activist Yu Xinshui said the shooting was an excessive use of force.

"There is nowhere for people to go to redress injustice; all the doors are closed to them," Yu said.

"They are even detained on the train, but even if they are detained, they shouldn't be shooting people dead; they could have shot him non-lethally."

"There was no reason to kill this man outright," he said.

Yu said Dong's public support for police in the wake of the incident gave out the wrong message.

"When a citizen was killed, [Dong] went to pay a visit to the police. Does this mean that [a county-level leader] sanctions the killing of ordinary citizens?" he said.

Only for show

Fellow rights attorney Liu Shuqing welcomed the news of Dong's investigation, accusing him of covering up for the police.

"If the guy who tried to aid and abet them is in this situation, then that's good for us," Liu said.

Online rights activist Wu Gan, known by his online nickname "The Butcher," said he believes that the investigation into the shooting was done merely for show.

"The result of this so-called investigation was that they [spun it as] a matter of stability maintenance, and made sure that the media played along," Wu said.

"If they would just release the [CCTV] video, they wouldn't need to investigate; they could just pursue whoever was responsible," said Wu, who has helped Qian's lawyers find eyewitnesses to build their case.

"But how can this be a credible investigation if they won't even make the video public?"

The case has divided Chinese online opinion, with some regarding Li as a hero, and others saying Xu was killed because he planned to complain about the government to higher authorities.

Flood of complaints

China's "letters and visits" complaints system is flooded with some 22,000 new complaints daily across the country, according to government figures from 2013.

But petitioning to higher authorities has been banned in cases where the local government hasn't addressed the issue, and many who try to do so say they are stonewalled, detained in "black jails," beaten, and harassed by the authorities.

It is unclear what Xu may have been complaining about, but many petitioners seek redress for alleged cases of official wrongdoing—including forced evictions, beatings in custody, and corruption linked to lucrative land sales.

Xu Nailai, a petitioner from the northern port city of Tianjin, received threats by telephone after some 600 people signed a petition calling for a full investigation into Xu Chunhe's death.

"I got a call from someone with a northeastern accent yesterday, asking me if I had posted online, and cursing me out in a particularly filthy way," Xu Nailai said.

"Then they said I shouldn't get involved in this affair [by gathering signatures]."

"Since yesterday, they have been going from door to door trying to find me and my daughter," Xu Nailai said. "I guess that in calling for the truth to be made public, I must have crossed a line."

Reported by Wen Yuqing for RFA's Cantonese Service, and by Xin Lin for the Mandarin Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.

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