The mystery surrounding the death of the Yunnan prison inmate has finally been cleared up: Last Friday, prosecutors announced that 24-year-old Li Qiao Ming died as the result of an assault by fellow inmates, rather than accidentally during a prison yard game, as police had claimed.
Three inmates are being investigated for the beating and several prison officials and police officers have been removed or punished, according to The China Daily.
The announcement put an end to a growing controversy over the case and its subsequent investigations.
Police first reported that Li had died after running straight into a wall during a game of “eluding the cat,” a cross between hide-and-seek and Marco Polo. The explanation raised an internet furor and, in response, the Yunnan provincial government established an investigative team that was led by citizens, including two popular bloggers.
But the team failed to produce a meaningful report, and so nothing was resolved until the Supreme People’s Court sent a commissioner to oversee the prosecution.
The government’s decision to establish a citizen investigative team was already controversial – while some saw it as a move toward government transparency, the team was given such limited access to evidence that many condemned it as nothing more than a PR stunt.
Now that the case has been resolved through traditional government channels, what will be the repercussions for future citizen-led investigations?
The China Daily has already reported that the local government was “criticized by the public for letting amateurs investigate a serious crime,” which doesn’t bode well for experiments like this in the future.