The relatives of an elderly man killed in an attack by two dogs belonging to the son of a former Guizhou official have hit out at police for not firing at the animals, sparking fresh anger online over official privilege.
The 62-year-old man surnamed Chen was attacked by two Argentine mastiffs—a breed of big game hunting dog also known as Dogo Argentino—in the early hours of Monday morning, local media reported.
His relatives later spoke out against police for failing to shoot the animals, citing their link to the son of a local official.
"The dogs' owner was Zhou Yang, the son of former forestry bureau chief Zhou Deli," a woman who identified herself as Chen's great niece wrote on the popular Twitter-like service Sina Weibo on Wednesday.
"The dogs were kept on ... land owned by the forestry bureau," she wrote, saying a "carload" of policemen had watched the attack but done nothing to help her great uncle.
"Not one of them came to help him, and neither the forestry bureau nor the government have done a thing to comfort out family."
Sina's own news report, published online on Wednesday, said the dogs had been on the attack long enough to have dragged Chen's body into a nearby ditch.
It quoted a doctor at the hospital where Chen was taken as saying that the pensioner's body had been stripped of flesh in a number of places and that he was clearly dead on arrival at the emergency department.
The Honghuagang district police department said on its official microblog account that police had tried to frighten the dogs away by driving at them in their car.
Failure of duty
News of the attack spread on the Chinese Internet, prompting an angry response among netizens already disgusted at shows of official power and privilege.
"If the roles were switched, and some dogs belonging to an ordinary person were attacking someone in a position of power, the police would have shot the dogs for sure," wrote @naojia09 on Sina Weibo.
"But what we have here is just the opposite, so they calmly sat there and watched someone get torn to pieces, because the dogs have back-up," the user wrote. "Those in power have turned [the police] into heartless dogs."
Guangzhou-based rights lawyer Sui Muqing said the failure of police to help during an attack by dogs would amount to a failure of duty.
"According to most people's understanding, as a police officer, the first reaction should be to shoot [at the dogs] if they can see an elderly person is in great danger," Sui said.
"I don't think that this requires any specific sort of training," he said.
The Zunyi municipal government issued a statement on Wednesday in defense of the police officers at the scene, saying that the dogs had stopped attacking Chen by the time the police officers reached the scene.
"The police officers were afraid that they would themselves be injured, as the dogs were too fierce, and their judgement was that the person was already dead," the statement said.
"That is why they didn't shoot."
It confirmed that the dogs' owner was the son of the former forestry bureau chief of the Zunyi municipal government.
The Dogo Argentino is outlawed as a dangerous dog in a number of countries including the U.K., New Zealand, Norway, Denmark, Iceland, Singapore, Ukraine, and Israel.
Anger over official privilege
Microblog user @luyanzhuyan said the excuse that the police were afraid of the dogs was "truly unbelievable."
Meanwhile, user @feishoubuke added: "On what basis did they decide that the person was already dead? From their vantage point a good distance away? These police must be like God."
Hangzhou-based veteran journalist Zan Aizong said most people were unlikely to accept the government's explanation.
"Sometimes statements made by government officials leave things out, and the general public, through long experience, takes them with a pinch of salt," Zan said.
"A lot of what the government does is subjective [and what they say is] untruthful, so people don't believe it...They only tell you what it's in their interest to tell you, not the stuff that isn't," he said.
Popular anger is mounting in China at the widening gap between those with official power and privilege and the rest of the population.
Earlier this month, new figures revealed that the sons and daughters of ruling Chinese Communist Party officials are likely to make more money in their first job than their less well-connected peers, amid one of the worst graduate job markets China has ever seen.
And while the new administration of President Xi Jinping has vowed to fight for a cleaner and more transparent government, Chinese authorities have launched a crackdown that appears directly targeted at activists calling for the disclosure of official assets.
Police in China have detained a number of activists, lawyers, and ordinary citizens in a coordinated crackdown on the "New Citizens' Movement," after they launched a petition calling on more than 200 high-ranking Communist Party officials, including President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang, to publicly disclose their financial assets and those of their closest relatives.
Reported by Yang Fan for RFA's Mandarin Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.