Suspicious Death Ignites Fury in China
By XIYUN YANG and EDWARD WONG
A man lies on a road with his eyes closed, blood streaming from his half-open mouth, his torso completely crushed under the large tire of a red truck. One arm reaches out from beneath the tire. His shoulder is a bloody pile of flesh. His head is no longer attached to the flattened spinal cord.
The man in the photograph, Qian Yunhui, 53, has become the latest Internet sensation in China, as thousands of people viewing the image online since the weekend have accused government officials of gruesomely killing Mr. Qian to silence his six-year campaign to protect fellow villagers in a land dispute. Illegal land seizures by officials are common in
It is the latest in a string of cases in which anger against the government has been fanned by the lightning-fast spread of information online. In late October, the son of a deputy police chief in central
Officials in the city of
It is unclear who took the photographs, but they first appeared Sunday afternoon on Tianya, a popular online forum for discussing Chinese social issues.
Within 36 hours, the initial post attracted nearly 20,000 comments. It has since been deleted. Tianya and two other Web sites that reported on the case together got 400,000 hits, according to Xinhua, the state news agency. The Chinese government goes to great lengths to block servers here from accessing information it deems harmful to political stability, but censors have apparently failed to keep up with the proliferation of blog posts related to Mr. Qian. Once the information had spread, higher authorities apparently found it necessary to show the public they were looking into the matter — officials from the nearby city of
Chinese Internet users were drawn not only to the gruesome images, but also to the fact that the land dispute involving Mr. Qian is a common narrative in
In 2004, the city government approved construction of a power plant in
Mr. Qian, the former Communist Party representative in the village, traveled to
An hour later, he was run over by the red truck, his body crushed beneath the left front tire. The driver, Fei Liangyu, has been detained, according to a statement on the Yueqing city government Web site.
Chinese news reports said another villager, Qian Chengwei, told people that he had watched as the victim was held down in the road by several men wearing security uniforms. One of the men waved his hand, and a truck then drove slowly over Mr. Qian, the reports said. Villagers arriving at the scene were immediately suspicious. They refused to allow the police to remove Mr. Qian’s body, and a scuffle ensued.
The witness and the victim’s family members were detained, according to Southern Daily, a newspaper based in
Local news organizations reported Tuesday that Mr. Qian’s family members have been released. Phone calls to Mr. Qian’s home were not answered.
Internet users and Chinese reporters have continued to question the explanation by city officials, pointing to discrepancies revealed by the photos. Why does the front of the truck show little sign of impact or blood? Why, if Mr. Qian had been accidentally hit while walking upright, is his body lying completely perpendicular to the truck’s tire? Why was a brand-new security camera at the intersection where Mr. Qian killed not working on Saturday? Who called Mr. Qian on that fateful morning?
“A few years ago, there were other people petitioning with my dad,” one family member, Qian Shuangping, told