Police struggle to convince public of proper conduct of investigation over man's death

By Cao Siqi Source:Global Times Published: 2016-5-12 0:23:01

Evidence fails to dispel public suspicions

In the face of an angry public demanding details of how a 29-year-old man died while being driven to a police station, Beijing police provided evidence on Wednesday that the man had solicited a prostitute, a vain attempt to dispel public suspicion that he might have been abused during the arrest.

Lei Yang, a 29-year-old Beijing resident who recently became father to a baby girl, died of an alleged heart attack in police custody in Beijing's Changping district on Saturday, according to media reports.

Changping district public security bureau released a second statement early Wednesday morning, saying they had arrested five other people at a foot massage parlor and evidence at the scene showed that Lei had paid 200 yuan ($31) for sex.

The statement said that Lei attempted to escape twice, bit a police officer and smashed their camera. When he was escorted to the police station, he suddenly felt ill and died later at a hospital. 

A detained sex worker from the foot massage parlor told Beijing TV that she had performed a sex act on him with her hand that night. Changping police told Beijing TV that a DNA test on a condom at the scene confirmed the claim.

Despite proving the man was detained for a legitimate reason, the police have so far failed to show they did not torture or use force that, as some suspect, may have led to Lei's death.

The statement saying Lei had "smashed the filming equipment" during the arrest has further upset some netizens who believe the incident was "just too convenient."

According to a previous news report in Caixin Magazine, Lei's college friends demanded to see surveillance footage from the nearby community compound but were told the "cameras were all broken" and that "the surveillance footage was gone."

Lei Peng, Lei Yang's brother, told the Global Times on Wednesday that they are waiting for the autopsy report and will not currently comment on the police claims. 

A Shandong-based forensic doctor, surnamed Niu, told the Global Times that a systematic anatomy and toxicological analysis should be conducted to confirm the cause of death and the results usually take a month. 

In a petition letter published widely online, including on Sina Weibo, Lei's college classmates from the prestigious Renmin University of China questioned the law enforcement procedures of Changping police. According to current regulations, police should wear formal uniforms and carry cameras. Changping police failed to do so and "it was a serious malpractice," the letter said.

They also called for a "thorough investigation into Lei's death" and a "complete reorganization and constraint of public security discipline."

Broken cellphone

In response to some of the questions, Xing Yongrui, a police officer in Changping district who was in charge of the case, told the People's Daily Wednesday that plainclothes police did not have to carry cameras and they filmed the scene with a cellphone. Xing said the cellphone broke during the arrest. 

As to questions on why it took three hours for the police to notify Lei's family of his death, Xing said the officers could not find Lei's cellphone or ID in his pockets. Xing said that officers later found Lei's cellphone on a lawn where Lei tried to fight the police officers to escape the arrest. He said it took them a long time to find the phone and Lei's wallet at night, and once they acquired the phone they immediately contacted Lei's family.

Xing denied deleting Lei's iPhone information and said that there was no excessive use of force during the police raid.

Soliciting prostitutes in China results in administrative detention and does not constitute a serious crime. People who solicit a prostitute shall be detained for a maximum of 15 days and fined up to 5,000 yuan. The act includes oral sex, masturbation and pederasty, Mao Lixin, a lawyer at Beijing-based Shangquan Law Firm, said.

However, any involvement with prostitution still bears a social stigma and people involved in paid sex would risk their marriage, reputation or even losing their job.

Independent investigation

The public have continued to raise questions about the incident on Wednesday.

A user from popular Chinese question-and-answer website zhihu.com presented a document from the manufacturer of a police hand-held recording camera, which said that the camera cannot be destroyed unless it was dropped from over 3.2 meters or higher. 

Chen Youxi, a lawyer from the Zhejiang-based Capital Equity Legal Group, told the Global Times that Changping police should not interfere in the case and have no right to draw a conclusion.

"The final results should be released by a third-party institution after an independent investigation into this case," said Chen.

Newspaper headline: Police say man paid for sex before death

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