Chinese Rights Activist Found Dead After Alleged Attack in Beijing

china-activist-07042016.jpg Jin Zhongqi, 59, in police flyer.

A Chinese rights activist who allegedly attacked two state security police officers with a knife, killing two before fleeing the scene, has been found hanged, according to police.

Jin Zhongqi, 59, was found dead in what appeared to be a suicide, a week after the alleged attack, which came after he posted a photo to social media of a couple he said were state security police detailed to follow him, the Haidian district police department in Beijing said in a statement.

"A male was found dead, hanging, in a wooded area near Yangtaishan, in Haidian district," the statement said

"He was later confirmed to be the suspect who attacked and wounded people with a knife at the Jingshuyuan bus stop on June 27," it said.

According to the Beijing Times newspaper, an affiliate of Communist Party mouthpiece People's Daily, the attack came after Jin got into an argument over a "toe stepping incident" with passengers on a bus.

An officer who answered the phone at the Haidian district police department gave a similar account on Monday.

"It was a dispute with a stranger," the officer said.

Asked if any state security police had died, he replied: "No, no, they didn't."

But Jin's friends said he had been under huge psychological pressure following round-the-clock surveillance of him and his family by state security police.

"We knew him, though not well," Beijing housing rights activist Ni Yulan told RFA on Monday. "We often saw him helping out petitioners; he was a very warm-hearted person."

"Sometimes he would let homeless [evictees] stay in his home, so he probably ran afoul of somebody [in government] and became a sensitive figure," she said.

"They didn't want him to house people in his own home."

Suicide questioned

Some online commentators called on the media to investigate Jin's death more closely, amid concerns that he may have "been suicided" in an act of retaliation.

"What events led up to this - please explain clearly!" user @qianyangren wrote, while @rendejun added:

"Normal people don't do that sort of thing, so I hope the media will dig deeper into this story, and find out what was going on to distort his thinking." And @hebeixiangsu added: "Why is it that the bigger the story, the shorter the word count?"

Jin had previously served a 12 year prison sentence, according to Ni Yulan's husband Dong Jiqin.

Gu Yi, director of the Independent Federation of Chinese Students and Scholars in the United States (IFCSS), said there are doubts over whether Jin really committed suicide, particularly in the wake of the 2012 "suicide" death of Chinese labor rights activist Li Wangyang in police custody, which prompted a public outcry.

"The story that Jin Zhongqi committed suicide is the official narrative," he said. "But they said this about the deaths of other dissidents, including Li Wangyang and people like him."

"We don't know if he really killed himself or not," Gu said. "It's entirely possible that Jin Zhongqi was killed to shut him up."

"And if those two people he killed were really state security police, then the authorities will do everything in their power to stop it getting out."

Gu said the authorities haven't released the identity of those who died in the alleged attack at the bus stop.

"They don't want people to find out the identities of those who died, and I saw that an article [about this] has now been deleted from the Tianya forums," he said.

"The authorities don't want to go public with what really happened here, and they don't want the public to ask questions about the identities of the victims."

The ruling Chinese Communist Party has launched a nationwide crackdown, jailing, questioning and placing restrictions on hundreds of lawyers, activists and academics in the past year.

Reported by Qiao Long for RFA's Mandarin Service, and by Sing Man for the Cantonese Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.

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