By Katie Nelson
Image via SCMP
On May 2, Yuan Liya, a migrant worker from Anhui, died after falling from the fifth floor of the Jingwen clothing market in Beijing. On May 8, huge crowds of Anhui residents and migrant workers gathered outside of the market in protest of the Beijing police’s handling of the woman’s death, which was officially ruled as a suicide.
Police have released surveillance footage reportedly showing the 22 year old moments before she fell to her death. The footage appears to show the woman wearing different clothes than she was photographed as wearing at the scene of her death, furthering speculation of a police cover-up in the case.
Rumors spread that the woman was gang-raped and possibly murdered by security guards, and that police were trying to cover it up. Beijing police denied the rumors, but would not release surveillance footage until now.
On May 8, Beijing police officially announced that the woman’s death was not connected to an alleged gang rape, nor was murder suspected.
“Police ruled out allegations that she was poisoned, raped or murdered after examining surveillance video footages and conducting an autopsy. But they didn’t say whether she died in an accident or a suicide,” Shanghai Daily reports.
A 28 year old woman surnamed Ma was later apprehended after she admitted to spreading online rumors that Yuan was sexually assaulted and murdered by security guards, and that a police cover-up was involved.
Police have now released the surveillance camera footage from the day of Yuan’s death, which “shows that the person’s movements were free,” according to a Beijing police official. “She was not followed by anyone or taken hostage.”
The surveillance video clips show the victim entering a room in the building by herself on May 2 and walking into a stairwell around 4am.
According to the South China Morning Post:
Immediately after the video footage, which claims to show her walking to the window where she allegedly jumped, was broadcast on Friday, doubts emerged over its authenticity.
In the video footage, she is seen wearing a white skirt, but photos taken of her body when she was found the next morning show her wearing a dark-coloured or black skirt. The news report did not explain the contradiction.
Many posts pointing out incongruities between the video footage and photos of the woman at the scene have been deleted from Chinese microblogs, and searches for “Jingwen” are still being blocked on Sina Weibo.
Yuan’s family is now reportedly being compensated 400,000 yuan by Jingwen market, as it “failed to clear out unrelated personnel after the market was closed and let Yuan stay in the market after midnight, which shows the market’s deficiencies in management,” the People’s Daily reports.
News of this hefty compensation further sparked accusations from the netizen community.
“It doesn’t make any sense that the market would pay as much as 400,000 yuan just because someone committed suicide,” wrote a user on Sina Weibo. “It’s less like compensation, more like hush money”.
Tan Qiugui, a civil law professor at the China University of Political Science and Law, explained to the Global Times that “The amount of 400,000 yuan is determined by the size of the family’s loss, which takes account of many factors such as provision for the woman’s parents and mental distress,” Tan said. “It’s unfair to say the amount is too much without knowing full details of the case and the family.”