Public outrage is swelling in China over the mysterious death of a young father who was detained following a raid on a massage parlour last week.
Lei Yang, 29, was declared dead within hours of being picked up from the parlour in Beijing’s Changping district by police personnel in plainclothes late on Saturday night.
Lei’s family was informed at least four hours after his death, and according to reports, his wife found bruises on his body.
The incident was splashed across the China’s tightly controlled media this week and questions were raised whether Lei died of police torture and brutality.
The police released statements to the media, claiming that employees of the parlour had said Lei had solicited a sex worker for 200 RMB (Rs 2000). Prostitution is illegal in China.
Massage parlours, however, are common across cities in China and the police are known to conduct occasional raids to curb prostitution.
But the lack of police transparency in the case is adding to the confusion and anger, reports said.
According to a report by The Beijing News, several members of the public witnessed a man running from the massage parlour towards a residential complex about 9.20 pm on Saturday.
The report said as he was running, he appealed for help, shouting: “They aren’t police. Please keep me... Don’t let them drag me to the car.”
The Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post (SCMP) reported that an online petition launched by alumni at Renmin University, where Lei graduated with a master’s degree in environmental science in 2009, said the authorities’ claim that he died while trying to escape arrest by plainclothes police officers was unconvincing.
“It is hard to believe that Yang as a father of a newborn baby, would solicit prostitution while heading to the airport [to fetch a relative],” the petition was quoted by SCMP as saying.
Prominent criminal lawyer Chen Youxi told SCMP that Changping police should withdraw from the investigation as they seemed to have broken the law themselves.