*Graphic Warning* Chinese bristle with indignation at horrific death of a village petitioner
Qian Yunhui, chief of Zhaiqiao Village, Yueqing City of Zhejiang Province in East China, was a prominent petitioner who had been jailed three times for speaking on behalf of the villagers, whose farmland was seized by local officials without any compensation.
On the morning of December 25, upon receiving a mysterious phone call, Qian went outside from home. Minutes later at about 9:25 a.m., he was run over by a heavy-duty truck, his entire torso crushed by the wheel.
It had only been four months since the release of Qian Yunhui from Correctional Center of Jinhua, a neighboring city.
Warning: The following photos taken at the scene are very graphic. If you are prepared to view them, please click on them to enlarge.
Before the police arrived, many people were at the scene, while the driver of the truck was gone. Villagers began pitching tents to shade the body of Qian from rain, hoping to protecting the scene and evidence.
At around 2 p.m., hundreds of policemen tried to take away Qian’s body, only to be thwarted by villagers. But two hours later, a lot more with police dogs came, taking both the body and dozens of villagers away on the charge of disturbing social order.
The local police defined it as a traffic accident. Most villagers were in disbelief. Rumor that this was a premeditated murder circulated in the village. Meanwhile, the gruesome pictures and videotaping of the scene went viral over the Internet, generating waves after waves of spontaneous investigation and analysis of the incident by Chinese netizens and investigative reporters.
Why was it suspicious?
Chinese netizens and investigative reporters have actively engaged themselves in the aftermath of the incident by raising doubts about the police’s explanation and piecing multiple facts together as strong evidence.
Online discussion forums and microblogs were abuzz with suspicions of the “accident.” They pointed out that the front of the truck shows little sign of impact or blood, that if Qian had been accidentally hit while walking upright, his body shouldn’t have been lying completely perpendicular to the truck, and that there wasn’t any obvious skid mark either, which means the truck didn’t at all brake hard to avoid hitting him.
Huang Diyan, a resident of the neighboring village, claimed to be the eyewitness of the probable crime. She told one reporter, her voice trembling, that at 9:00 p.m., she was on her way to buy lottery tickets when she saw Qian Yunhui was besieged by people wearing black mouth masks and white gloves. She tried to mediate, and was shoved aside by one of them. When she looked back, she saw “a truck five to six meters away slowly moved forward. The three men pressed his neck beneath the wheel.”
Another villager Qian Chengyu, 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 Qian.
The surveillance camera installed at the intersection where the incident took place was faulty on the day of the accident. It can only be used to view the street live without recording.
As for who called Qian Yunhui before he went out and got run over, police did not show any log of phone calls in the press conference. Qian Yunhui’s wife recalled that when her husband received the mysterious call, he didn’t even wait until he finished his breakfast to go out. She said he was seldom as serious as that. He didn’t tell her who that was.
Qian Yunhui as a petitioner
In 2004, Qian was given a sentence of three and a half years’ imprisonment for “gathering crowds and besieging a government organ.” In March 2005, the appellant court changed the sentence to a year and a half.
In the ensuing village election in April 2005, Qian won by a landslide. He gained 2,300 out of 2500 votes cast by villagers. The election in 2008 aborted because most villagers were only willing to vote for him as the new chief, whereas he was still serving his time for another conviction: illegal transfer of land, and was deemed not eligible.
Villagers say the so-called “illegal transfer of land” was referring to Qian’s selling the land co-owned by villagers to individual villagers with their consent for gathering money for petition. The arrest was made when he was petitioning in Beijing.
On July 19, 2010, Qian Yunhui was finally released. Villagers recall that almost all residents went to as far as ten miles away to welcome him home.
Qian Wenfu, a former assistant to Qian Yunhui, said, “He was honest, outspoken and daring.”
The land seized by the city government of Yueqing, which supervises Zhaiqiao Village, was intended for construction of a power plant. Zhaiqiao Village has a population of more than 3,800. Before seizure, the entire village fed on the land. The power plant took 67.6% of the total land area of the village, leaving per capita land ownership at 0.19 mu, or 1,365 square feet.
Li Chengpeng, a well-known Chinese reporter who often exposes social problems and government incompetence, said that the female college student who first uploaded pictures of the scene “has disappeared,” suggesting that she might have been persecuted.
According to Dongfang Daily, son-in-law of the victim Qian Yunhui, was beaten by the police in the detention center.
Wang Keqing, one of the most prominent investigative reporters in China, wrote in his microblog that villagers told him police had been chasing down people at night. They became the target after they stood out and talked to reporters about the village chief’s grievances. They feared that they would be taken away.
Unofficial video clips uploaded by netizens have been deleted from most Chinese video streaming sites.
After the press conference, newscast from Chinese television networks, including China Central Television, the official mouthpiece of Chinese government, has set the tone, hoping to quash the rage and close the case: the police have ruled out murder; Fei Liangyu, driver of the truck, was driving without a license, and as a total stranger, did not have any motive to murder Qian Yunhui; Qian was jaywalking at the time of the accident, therefore, the driver was not completely accountable for his death.
Press conference leaves most questions unanswered
In the hastily arranged press conference held at 10: 55 p.m. on December 29, four days after the incident by Wenzhou Police Department, which has jurisdiction over Yueqing city, police only allowed six questions from the media.
Q1: Why the scratches on the bumper in police’s picture are different from what we see in netizens’ pictures?
A1: Responsibility of police forbids us to falsify. I can’t guarantee what happens to netizens’ pictures. But ours is definitely factual. We arrived very quickly at the scene. But then villagers were blocking us. Police respected their discontent, and did not go on.
Q2: Why did the police grab the dead body? Why did you fail to find out the speed of the vehicle at the time of the impact?
A2: The accident was in the morning whereas the body was removed in the afternoon. The body was a piece of evidence for investigation. Autopsy requires family consent. Now autopsy hasn’t been performed yet. (Additional question: Why you reach a conclusion without performing autopsy?) According to the investigation, it should be a traffic accident. The press conference has to be short. I can’t explain to you.
Q3: Why don’t you let the family of the victim to see the body?
A4: We have talked to the family. We have respect for the body. The outer appearance of the body tells all. As for the speed of the vehicle, it can’t always be found out. We have asked professional institution for help, they said because of the condition, it was impossible to find out. Details can’t be provided one by one in the press conference.
Q4: Who gave Qian the phone call? Is it legal to detain Qian’s son-in-law for over 50 hours? I heard that Qian left a message. What is that?
A4: The phone call was from a fellow villager whose last name is Wang. Wang said he called for affairs related to the village. It had nothing to do with the accident. So-called detention is a misunderstanding. It was a talk. It lasted 23 hours, which is in line with the 24-hour rule.
Q5: Has any villager claimed to be the eyewitness?
A5: What Qian Chengyu saw was only the scene after the accident. He didn’t see four people waving hands. It was rumored to be that way, but the rumor stopped. We did lie detection. Huang Diyan came clean that she did not go past the village then at all. She heard the rumor and went there as an onlooker. Some villagers goaded her by saying, “You can go talk to the press. There are many reporters. You might get paid.”
Q6: Why did police take away Qian’s family and beat them?
A6: During the 23 hours, he wasn’t beaten at all. Our words are based on facts and conscience.
Q7: It is said that because Qian Yunhui got wind that someone was going to make him suffer, he didn’t live at home the last two nights before his death. Did police investigate into this?
A staff member grabbed away the microphone. Nobody answered the question. The news conference came to an end.
Popular comments from netizens:
jephsonsh: There is no need to waste time talking about the tragedy in Yueqing, because the authorities have totally lost ground as being trustworthy.
@wentommy: The top article The Whole Story of Farmland Seizure in Zhaiqiao Village in Tianya has been deleted. The old chief’s last message and more than 20,000 comments vanished. On the other hand, microblog account “Peaceful Yueqing” (Jing’s note: a publicity stunt by the local government) has mounted the stage in full regalia. It’s so clear that who are supposed to shut up and who are supposed to talk.
@韩浩月: If the driver can accept the interview in such a sensible and organized way without any flurry, penitence or fluster as a victimizer, how could such a lucid driver be so reckless while driving?
@赵国富: Now I understand the reason why a press conference has to be postponed until midnight: because “The press conference has to be short. I can’t explain to you.” I have to admire the police’s brilliant sleight of hand to countervail against “investigation.”
@程益中: Why, despite whatever you put and however you put it, nobody believes in you? Why you are inexcusable? The reason is simple. The direct cause is that you have the habit of lying, and never tell the truth or allow the truth to be told. The root cause is, even though you are supported by me, you were not elected by me. Your power is either hereditary or secretly given. You don’t allow free speech or free press. The premise to the truth does not exist. The basis of trust does not exist.
@叶文添：The village chief’s home is very shabby. It is barely furnished. The only electric appliances are one refrigerator, one rice cooker, one disinfection cabinet and a 1o-year-old VCD player. A string of cured meat hangs on the balcony, but the owner didn’t have the luck to taste it. No matter what is the truth in the end, an old village chief who fought selflessly for the benefits of fellow villagers and underwent years of suffering, including being jailed three times, is a person who deserves being remembered forever.