Shandong Authorities Refuse Probe Into 'Suicide' Death

china-qufu-activists-crop.jpg Activists arrive in Qufu to investigate the death of Xue Fushun, in an undated photo.
Photo courtesy of the activists

Authorities in the eastern Chinese province of Shandong on Wednesday denied foul play in the death of a local dissident's father in police custody and turned down calls by activists for a probe, saying there was "no evidence" to support suspicions voiced by his family.

Xue Fushun, the father of prominent Shandong activist Xue Mingkai, was found dead on Jan. 29 after falling from the Qufu Municipal Procuratorate building, which houses the city's state prosecution service.

The family has said that Xue Fushun was unlikely to have killed himself, and suspect he was beaten to death.

More than a dozen activists gathered outside Shandong's Qufu municipal government buildings on Wednesday to present a written request for information on Xue Fushun's death.

"We went there to call for details of the case to be made public, but we hadn't even got to the gates when a vehicle stopped in front of us, and we were stopped from going any further," activist Jia Pin told RFA.

"The head of the complaints department was there, as well as an official from the police department," Jia said.

"They read out a brief summary of the results of an investigation by local police...which said that there was no evidence to support the claim that Xue Fushun had been killed," he said.

"They said there would be no investigation [of the claims]."

Jia said the group was taken to a local police station by several dozen police officers where their names and identity card numbers were taken.

He said they were put on trains for their hometowns by police, but many activists got off the train outside the city, and were planning to come back and continue their campaign.

Anhui-based activist Qian Jin said he was among those put on trains on Wednesday.

"It was the local stability maintenance office, who brought more than 20 police to surround us," Qian said. "They took us to the Qufu municipal complaints office, and told us that Xue Fushun did commit suicide."

"They totally passed the buck."

Xue Fushun's wife Wang Shuqing, who has publicly criticized the official verdict of "suicide" after her husband's body was found at the foot of the tall building, is currently being detained by police at constantly changing locations, and is cut off from contact with the outside world.

Police had detained Xue Fushun and his wife earlier, and the elderly couple were beaten inside the procuratorate building after they escaped detention briefly and tried to hide there.

Activists who tried to locate and free Wang Shuqing last Saturday were detained by police from Shandong and Beijing in a combined operation, and their whereabouts are currently unknown, fellow campaigners told RFA.

Wang has repeatedly warned her son, Xue Mingkai, 24, who is currently in hiding, not to try to return to Shandong.

Lawyers network

Meanwhile, a group of more than 30 prominent rights lawyers has banded together to "oversee" the case, its members told RFA.

"Their legal process wasn't made public," Beijing-based lawyer Jiang Tianyong said. "You could say there was no procedure at all."

He said the government's attempt to deny the allegations of foul play was "irresponsible."

"It's is very irresponsible, hastily done, and totally unacceptable," he said.

Xue Mingkai told New Tang Dynasty Television shortly after his father's death that his father "had no thoughts of suicide."

The family has only been allowed a brief glance at Xue Fushun's body, while an official autopsy was carried out behind closed doors, he said in an interview last week.

The case has has led many to draw parallels with the "suicide" death of veteran labor activist Li Wangyang in June 2012.

"They aren't dealing with it, but they are continuing with stability maintenance so as to suppress the affair," Beijing rights lawyer Zhang Lei said.

"It doesn't suit the local police or procuratorate to investigate this, because they themselves are involved in it," he said.

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 even a Hong Kong official.

Li, 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.

In April 2011, Xue Mingkai was formally arrested on charges of incitement to subvert state power and was later jailed until September 2013 on the same charges.

His arrest came after he and fellow activist Wei Shuishan travelled to Zhejiang's Zhaiqiao village to carry out an investigation into the death of elected village chief Qian Yunhui.

Zhejiang authorities sentenced a truck driver to three-and-a-half years in prison after he ran over Qian with his truck, but ruled the popular land rights activist's death an accident.

Xue had already served 18 months in prison between May 2009 and November 2010 for "subversion of state power" after he tried to set up a Workers' Democratic Party for migrant workers in Shenzhen, and then later joined the banned opposition China Democracy Party (CDP).

Wang Shuqing served a one-year sentence of "re-education through labor" after she tried to appeal his earlier sentence, and was "disappeared" for an unknown period after his second arrest.

Reported by Grace Kei Lai-see for RFA's Cantonese Service, and by Xin Yu for the Mandarin Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.


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