Calls for Probe Into Chinese Journalist's Death

By Luisetta Mudie
Residents protesting against plans for a factory to produce a toxic petrochemical in Kunming, southwest China's Yunnan province, May 4, 2013.

The sudden death of a top Chinese journalist who apparently fell from a hotel building in the southwestern province of Sichuan after writing an expose on a toxic waste spillage has sparked online calls for an official investigation.

Commercial Times reporter Liu Qi, 27, was found dead in the early hours of Sunday morning at the foot of the Honghua Hotel building in Sichuan's Wusheng county, where he had traveled to attend a friend's wedding, state media reported.

Late on Saturday, Liu had completed his last article for the paper, titled "Toxic Spill Spews Hazardous Waste for 40 Minutes."

Liu had only recently married his fiance, but police weren't treating his death as suspicious, the People's Daily Online, which is directly controlled by the ruling Chinese Communist Party, reported on Monday.

"Police investigations of closed-circuit television footage of the scene revealed that no other people were present at the time of Liu Qi's death," the paper quoted local government officials as saying.

"Police are making a further examination of the details," it said, adding that Liu had been staying in room 231, just one floor up from street level.

However, Chinese netizens seemed reluctant to accept the official version of events, calling for a probe into Liu's death.

"He died [after falling] from the second floor?! tweeted user @suiyuejingmei3.

"The cause of death looks very fishy," wrote user @zatanwuwei on the popular Sina Weibo microblogging service, in a post that garnered nearly 1,000 comments and 7,800 retweets. "Please pass it on and insist on the truth!"

User @yewufengxiangyewuqing agreed, commenting: "Why would he do that?" while other users posted candles and brief comments calling for "justice and the truth."

Suspicious deaths

Netizens appeared to suspect local officials of having a hand in Liu's death, following a series of suspicious deaths in police or prison custody which were later explained as suicide.

The pattern has become known online as being "suicided."

Weibo user @jimowukong wrote: "They dare to commit any evil!" while @chenchenzhiqiang added: "Not bad. Now all they need is to have him declared mentally unstable."

And user @jixuguang tweeted: "Condolences! Check out the reports he wrote before he died."

Last year, thousands of people signed an online petition calling for an independent probe into the death of veteran 1989 pro-democracy activist Li Wangyang after official claims that he killed himself while in police custody were disputed by activists and a Hong Kong official.

Li Wangyang, 62, died at a hospital in Shaoyang city in the custody of local police in June 2012. When relatives arrived at the scene, his body was hanging by the neck from the ceiling near his hospital bed, but was removed by police soon afterwards.

Relatives, friends, and rights groups have all called into question several details of both circumstance and timing which they say point to the possibility of foul play, including photographs distributed on the Chinese microblog service Sina Weibo, which showed Li’s feet touching the floor.

Activists began a campaign in the wake of Li's death via Twitter to issue statements saying that they would never commit suicide, in an attempt to stymy any future attempts to do away with them.

Beijing-based rights activist Hu Jia called on Chinese political prisoners, dissidents, activists, and citizens who are illegally detained by national security on a regular basis to make their own copies of the statement, and have them notarized.

Activists began to issue a series of tweets under the hashtag "I will not commit suicide," declaring that they would never commit suicide, and that any subsequent "accidents" that occurred should be treated with extreme suspicion.


Add your comment by filling out the form below in plain text. Comments are approved by a moderator and can be edited in accordance with RFAs Terms of Use. Comments will not appear in real time. RFA is not responsible for the content of the postings. Please, be respectful of others' point of view and stick to the facts.