Thousands of local residents have converged on an upscale hotel in the southwestern Chinese province of Sichuan, setting fire to the building in protest at the death and alleged rape of a 16-year-old girl who worked there. Mobile phone footage taken outside the hotel in Dazhu township showed confused and raucous crowds in darkness in front of a burning building as crowds gathered outside. Witnesses said the crowd reached 20,000 at its peak late Wednesday.
“There are still around a few thousand people on the scene and they protested outside the hotel this afternoon,” a shop owner near the Nest Business Hotel in Daizhu told RFA’s Cantonese service.
Hotel worker Yang Daili, who some Internet accounts said was a karaoke hostess, was found dead in a hotel room on Dec. 30. Police enquiries initially yielded little evidence, and the hotel said she had died of an overdose.
But the girl’s friends and classmates pursued the matter and began a protest in the hotel, drawing public attention.
The riot was triggered, residents said, after the hotel posted a notice denying any involvement in the girl’s death. Protesters stormed the hotel and vandalized it, then set fire to it.
There are still around a few thousand people on the scene and they protested outside the hotel this afternoon.
Police announced Thursday they had arrested two suspects in the case of the girl’s death. One was described in official media coverage as ’suspected rapist Liu Chikun.’
The report, posted by Sichuan Online and rebroadcast by Phoenix TV(ZH), said local leaders had ordered an investigation into possible business links between local police and the hotel.
An officer who answered the phone at the Dazhu police station declined to give further details.
“I have just come on duty and we haven’t got any updated information yet. How can I tell you the current situation outside?” he said.
Two Chinese-language forum posts translated into English by Hong Kong-based blogger Roland Soong said Yang was drugged and raped repeatedly by karaoke room clients until she died.
China sees thousands of “mass incidents” across the country every year.
While many are civil rights protests over land disputes, unpaid wages or environmental issues, spontaneous outbursts of anger and violence are occurring over numerous other issues, including changes in business licensing regulations, perceived miscarriages of justice, or fraudulent advertising claims.
Original reporting in Cantonese by Lee Kin-kwan. RFA Cantonese service director: Shiny Li. Written for the Web in English by Luisetta Mudie. Edited by Sarah Jackson-Han.