China police detains family of dead man over riot

BEIJING: Chinese police have detained the family of a man whose death last month sparked a riot that resulted in thousands of people clashing with security forces, the government and media said today.

At least five relatives of Tu Yuangao have been detained and several others questioned by police in Shishou city, in the central province of Hubei, for their alleged roles in the unrest, according to China Radio International.

Up to 23 others have also been detained for the unrest that exploded after the body of Tu, 23, was found on June 17 in front of the hotel where he worked as a chef, said a report posted on the radio station’s website.

“For those few relatives of the deceased who participated in the smashing, looting and burning, political and legal organs will hold them responsible for their criminal activity,” the Shishou government said in a statement to AFP.

The violence erupted after police ruled Tu’s death a suicide and tried to remove his body from outside the hotel, but the dead man’s family demanded an investigation into his demise.

Rumours that Tu was murdered after he threatened to expose alleged drug trafficking at the hotel helped fuel the unrest, the radio station said.

It added that Tu had not been paid for three months and the owner of the hotel enjoyed good relations with the Shishou government.

The detention of Tu’s relatives comes after authorities promised the family they would not be held accountable for “non-organised criminal activities” linked to the unrest if they agreed to the police findings that the death was a suicide, it said.

Authorities further paid Tu’s family 80,000 yuan (11,760 dollars) to accept the verdict, which they did, it said. The Shishou government confirmed the content of the agreement to AFP.

Photographed copies of the

alleged agreement between the authorities and the family appeared today on numerous

state-run websites. Locals at the time of the arrest told AFP that

up to 10,000 people had gathered in the streets in front of the

hotel clashing with police and smashing police vehicles.