Authorities in the eastern Chinese province of Jiangxi have detained and beaten more than 10 people following clashes with relatives of a teenage factory worker who died in mysterious circumstances earlier this month, relatives said on Tuesday.
The body of Chen Zhizhao, 17, was found in a pond near the Fengyuda Electronics Factory in Jiangxi's Gongqingcheng city on Sunday after the youth disappeared at the beginning of the month.
"The police found the body on June 6 in a pond, decomposed and full of maggots," Chen's cousin Zhou Qiming told RFA on Tuesday. "DNA tests showed that it was my cousin."
"We don't even know how he died, nor who it was who threw his body in the pond, and the local government is in cahoots with the factory management," he said.
More than 10 of Chen's relatives and supporters were detained and beaten by police on Monday after protesting at their local police station over what they said was a lack of progress in the investigation, Zhou said.
"All those who were detained were beaten and injured, and those who were released were also injured," Zhou said. "I got injured, too."
He said some people remain behind bars, and police are putting pressure on Chen's family to accept compensation of 100,000 yuan (U.S.$16,000) in return for their release.
"We have no way to visit those who are still in detention, and we don't know how badly they are hurt," he said.
"All of those detained were the brothers and sisters, aunts, and cousins of the youth who died," Zhou said.
A resident of Chen's home village of Sujiadang surnamed Cheng said local people are angry at what they see as a lack of police action in the case.
But he said the factory management should also take some responsibility for the unexplained death of their employee.
"He was working in their factory, and then he is found dead, his body thrown into a pond next to the factory under mysterious circumstances," Cheng said. "Ten days later, they still haven't even called his family."
"It was the family who went to seek him out; it was only then that we found out he had disappeared, and then we reported it to the police immediately," he said.
"The very next day, they find the body. There are a lot of unanswered questions."
A secretary surnamed Bi who relatives said was given the job of liaising with them on behalf of the Fengyuda factory said on Tuesday that "no such person" worked there, when asked about Chen.
Called on a separate occasion, she confirmed her identity, before replying: "You have the wrong number."
An official who answered the phone at the nearby Gongqingcheng city government declined to comment.
"This doesn't come under our jurisdiction," the official said. "We only deal with civil matters here; for criminal matters you will have to ask the courts."
Meanwhile, Zhou said the authorities had allowed Chen's parents to view his body, but had declined requests from the family that it be returned to them for a funeral.
"The police won't allow it," he said. "They said we were picking quarrels and stirring up trouble."
He said police had also confiscated video equipment used by the family to shoot footage of the police beating them up.
According to Chen's parents, their son's body showed signs of having been electrocuted, pointing to a possible industrial accident, but the family's attempts to get to the bottom of the matter had so far yielded no result.
"They have a lot of bosses there, and each time we go, we see a different one," Zhou said. "They are dragging this out ... so that eventually we will run out of energy to pursue the matter."
Chinese industry is plagued by lax safety standards and routinely sees major workplace accidents, with an estimated 57,000 people killed in 269,000 accidents in the first 11 months of 2014, according to government figures.
Labor rights activists say workplace safety is a continuing concern for China's rank-and-file work force, which lacks representation by any independent union, leaving victims with few options when seeking redress.
Reported by Xin Lin for RFA's Mandarin Service, and by Hai Nan for the Cantonese Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.