By Katie Nelson
A mass protest broke out in Beijing on Wednesday surrounding the case of a 22 year old girl who fatally fell from a building after allegedly being gang-raped. Protesters reportedly accused the Beijing police of mishandling the girl’s case, which had been ruled as a suicide. The protests have been accompanied by a strong police and paramilitary presence in the Fengtai District of the city.
The Straits Times reports,
The hours-long protest centred on a 22-year-old employee at a wholesale clothing centre who was seen entering the building last Thursday, and early the next morning fell to her death.
The protesters questioned the police account that she committed suicide, suggesting that she would not have jumped.
According to Beijing Cream, the young woman from Anhui province fell from the “Jingwen Clothing and Apparel Shopping Mall” in Fengtai District on May 3 after being gang-raped. Police reported her death as a suicide and would not allow her family to view the surveillance footage.
Pictures of the protest show police forces blockading the streets swarming with demonstrators.
“This afternoon, thousands of people — many who are migrant workers from Anhui — have gathered in a planned protest between Jingwen and Yongdingmen, a gate just south of the Temple of Heaven on Second Ring Road (a few kilometers north of Jingwen). Hundreds of police have shown up in turn, many in riot gear. Traffic is reportedly backed up for miles.”
Anthony Tao of Beijing Cream translated a few Weibo comments, many of which have now been removed, posted by Beijing citizens watching the scene:
– Something big happened in Beijing.
– What’s the situation?
– Cops, SWAT, riot police, helicopters. All here.
– What happened?
– Across from me a shopping center, Jingwen. An Anhui girl was gang-raped by Jingwen security guards, then leapt from the sixth story.
The nearby cops say it was suicide, there’s no case. Jingwen boss has influence
[via: Beijing Cream]
Update 00:00 CST
The above video of the protests has been circulating online, along with many photos from the event. Search terms related the protests have been blocked on Baidu and Sina Weibo.
Photos via DWNews:
Update 4:30 CST
The Guardian has posted a short story on the protests, which sheds some light on what took place:
A shopkeeper who gave his name only as Mr Li said that some police had arrived at around 10am, followed by around 200 people who paraded down the street shouting “Protest! Protest!”
The rapidly growing number of officers then closed the road for the rest of the day, he said. Photographs of the scene posted online showed hundreds of people on the street, although it was not clear how many were protesters and how many were onlookers.
One bystander said that officers had clashed with protesters, beating them and dragging them into vans.
On the Sina Weibo microblogging service, the name of the bridge where the protests took place was being blocked, as was that of nearby Yongdingmen. But “Anhui Girl” was trending as a top-10 search term.
Officers at Fengtai police station declined to comment on the protest and said its propaganda office would give more details later.
Traffic was blocked in southern Beijing for hours as demonstrators clashed with police outside a clothing emporium, and helicopters were seen flying towards the site. Beijing’s police department said the number of demonstrators on Wednesday morning was “around 100”. One participant, who asked not to be named, said this grew to as many as 10,000 and that several protesters had been hurt in the unrest in the afternoon.
The demonstration highlights the deep social and economic divide between urbanites and waidiren, or “outsiders”, a term commonly used in China’s big cities to refer to migrant workers from the countryside.
By Wednesday evening, the protest had dissipated amid heavy rain, but a large military presence was still visible, with dozens of parked buses carrying special forces, soldiers and police.