HONG KONG—Hundreds of supporters and relatives of a 13-year-old boy who was beaten to death in the central Chinese province of Hubei clashed Thursday with police who were trying to remove the boy's body from the entrance to his high school.
Several people, including the boy's grandmother, were injured during clashes sparked by the arrival of 200 police officers at the gates of the Yuanlin Third Middle School in Qianjiang city, witnesses said.
"The casket sat at the school entrance for a few hours," a woman resident of Qianjiang who asked not to be identified said.
"A lot of police showed up in 40 or 50 official vehicles. Even the municipal chief of public security was there," she said. "There were clashes. Some of the school’s windows were even smashed."
Relatives of the boy, Liu Yang, marched Thursday to demonstrate in front of the Qianjiang municipal government buildings.
Carrying banners that read "Give my child's life back" and "Student beaten to death on campus; his family beaten by police; where is justice?" several hundred protesters blocked traffic on a major thoroughfare and demanded an investigation.
"A lot of police showed up in 40 or 50 official vehicles. Even the municipal chief of public security was there."
Female resident of Qianjiang
The same eyewitness continued: "The atmosphere has been very tense all day. There are a lot of police cars in the area. Some streets are blocked and cars are ordered to detour. There are police on the highways throughout Qianjiang city," she said.
An officer on duty at the Qiangjiang municipal police station confirmed the protest had occurred as a result of the beating to death of a high school student and that it had blocked traffic. But she denied Liu Yang's relatives had been beaten by police.
"Public security saw to it that traffic was back to normal by this afternoon," the officer said.
Asked about the banners made by relatives of the deceased saying that they were beaten by police, she replied: "Not true."
The Qianjiang city government’s official Web site reported the beating death of the student and how his body had been placed at the school entrance by his family. It also said that municipal and law-enforcement officials rushed to the scene as soon as possible to coordinate emergency measures with public security personnel.
But it didn't mention the clashes between the police and the student’s relatives, nor did it mention the ensuing protest.
Former politician detained
In a related incident, police detained former local People's Congress deputy Yao Lifa at the site of the protest outside the city government office building.
"There are a lot of government officials with me now," Yao said from his cell phone at the scene of the protest, with the sound in the background of someone shouting at him.
Yao, a vocal defender of civil rights and a veteran democracy activist, continued: "I’ll call you back. Something big happened in Qianjiang today… I’ll call you back," but a later phone call found him in the company of police officers who had taken him to Zhongxiang city, about 150 kms (93 miles) from Qianjiang.
Amid the sound of police officers telling him to break off the call, Yao said it was "definitely not" convenient to talk and rang off.
Original reporting in Mandarin by Ding Xiao. RFA Mandarin service director: Jennifer Chou. Translated and written for the Web in English by Luisetta Mudie and Jennifer Chou. Edited by Sarah Jackson-Han.