Authorities in the southwestern Chinese province of Sichuan are probing the death of a teenager who local residents say was beaten to death by several People's Liberation Army (PLA) soldiers after he went with friends to look for spent bullets at a military camp near his home.
A resident of Jichang village near Sichuan's Leshan city surnamed He said a group of teenage boys went to the camp to pick up bullets on Wednesday when they were attacked by a group of soldiers stationed there.
"That kid had some kind of problem, because he wouldn't stop [when they told him to] and didn't do as he was told," He said in an interview on Thursday.
"He didn't die at the time, but a while after they beat him up," she added. "He died outside, in a water ditch."
He confirmed an earlier tweet that appeared on the popular Sina Weibo microblogging site, which said that the 18-year-old had quarreled with a group of soldiers after being told to stop picking up bullet casings.
"He was then surrounded and beaten up by more than a dozen soldiers, and all the kids who were at the scene ran away in fright," the post said.
"Somebody found him after a while, lying on the ground and covered in blood," it said.
According to He, several hundred residents of Jichang village staged a protest outside the gates of the PLA camp, and outside the government offices for Qianwei county, where the village is located.
"This happened [on Wednesday]," she said. "But it's been sorted out now."
He said authorities had agreed to pay compensation to the boy's family.
An employee who answered the phone at a furniture store near the Qianwei county government offices said he had seen a large group of people arrive outside the building on Wednesday.
"They blocked the government [gates], because they wanted an explanation," the employee said. "I heard one of the villagers was beaten to death ... he was taken to hospital and he died there."
No official details
An official who answered the phone at the Yujin township government offices, which administers Jichang village, declined to give details of the incident.
"I'm sorry, we haven't been given an approved statement on this incident yet, because it is still being dealt with," the official said.
"We will have to discuss this another time," he said. "I am very busy right now."
While beatings to death of Chinese citizens—and subsequent mass protests—are frequently reported at the hands of police, hired thugs and urban management officials, incidents involving the PLA are relatively rare.
Earlier this week, Chinese riot police were forced to withdraw after they were overwhelmed in clashes with a large angry crowd protesting the beating of a street vendor by urban management officials, or chengguan, also in Sichuan province.
The clashes occurred late Tuesday after a group of chengguan surrounded and beat up a stallholder in Deyang city's Wenmiao Square, eyewitnesses said.
Reported by Lin Jing for RFA's Cantonese service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.