BEIJING (AFP) – A Chinese police officer has been arrested after a female migrant worker was allegedly beaten to death in a case which sparked anger over the authorities’ latest apparent abuse of power.
The arrest over Zhou Xiuyun’s death earlier this month, reported by the state-run Global Times newspaper on Monday, has triggered a wave of online commentary in China, where rights groups say abuse and violence by law enforcement authorities is common.
Zhou Xiuyun was attacked by the police officer at a construction site in China’s northern Shanxi province where she was demanding delayed salary for her son totalling 20,000 yuan ($3,200), the Dahe newspaper reported on Monday.
The situation descended into chaos when officers attempted to take away the 47-year-old, the newspaper said, citing her husband Wang Youzhi, who had accompanied his wife, along with their son.
The police officer seized Zhou by the neck and pinned her to the ground after she tried to stop the officers from handcuffing her husband, Wang was quoted as saying.
The three were brought to a local police station where an unconscious Zhou was then thrown onto the ground while Wang and his son were beaten up, leaving the father with four broken ribs.
It was not immediately clear precisely when she died, but footage showing the policeman trampling on the hair of a lifeless Zhou went viral online, prompting the local Public Security Bureau to issue a statement last Friday saying it had suspended the policemen involved.
“The police … were suspected of impropriety in handling the case. Zhou subsequently died abnormally,” the statement said.
The Public Security Bureau statement also said the policemen were under prosecutor’s investigation, but did not give further details.
The Global Times on Monday said one policeman – who was surnamed Wang – had been arrested, and another suspended.
The incident was the second hottest topic on China’s Twitter-like Sina Weibo on Monday after the missing AirAsia jet.
“As the people’s policeman, who gave you the power to infringe human rights and insult others’ dignity?” asked one user.
“You are an animal under a human cover.”
Yu Feilong, an author, said in a separate posting, “He acts like an animal and he should be executed for the crime he committed.”
Police officers in China are often accused by rights groups and critics of aiding companies or local governments in cases such as labour disputes, land seizures and evictions.
They often extort confessions with violence, according to human rights activists, while abuses carried out by urban management officers known as ‘chengguan’ also regularly trigger public outcries.
Deng Zhengjia, 56, was beaten to death last year by six chengguan for selling watermelons at a street stall without a licence in a case which sparked widespread public anger.