Death of girl at mall triggers large protest

Updated: 2013-05-09 07:18

By Jin Haixing and Zhang Yan (China Daily)

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Police believe sales clerk committed suicide by jumping from 7th floor

Demonstrators and police were injured on Wednesday when a protest triggered by the death of a Beijing female sales clerk turned ugly.

Yuan Liya, 22, died after plunging from the seventh floor of a mall last week, and police say initial findings point to suicide.

However, by Wednesday morning, hundreds of people had gathered outside the Jingwen coat wholesale outlet in the capital's Fengtai district to call for further investigations into the tragedy.

The crowd, which waved banners and pictures and chanted for justice, were mostly migrant workers and included several of Yuan's relatives, people from her native Anhui province and other shop workers, according to the Beijing Municipal Public Security Bureau.

Authorities said about 2,000 police personnel, including armed officers, were sent to maintain order.

Some protesters argued with police, and even assaulted and injured officers, Li Runhua, deputy director of Beijing's public security, said on Wednesday. The wounded officers were sent to a nearby hospital, police said.

No details were given about whether any protesters were injured, although a China Daily reporter outside Jingwen mall saw at least one man receiving treatment from emergency medical workers while being restrained by uniformed officers.

Authorities confirmed arrests were made but did not elaborate on the number.

Roads and shopping malls surrounding Jingwen were closed until about 4 pm. Due to the roadblocks, heavy traffic jams were reportedly caused in South Third Ring Road.

Police are now scanning surveillance footage of the protest and "will detain those who severely disrupted social order", according to the public security bureau, which said the owner of the mall, a resident of Wenzhou in Zhejiang province, has also been questioned.

Yuan was a migrant worker from Lujiang county of Anhui. Her body was discovered at the exit of the mall's underground garage on Friday morning.

The Fengtai police department, which handled the initial investigation, said security-camera footage showed her arriving at the mall alone on the evening of May 2. She committed suicide by jumping from the seventh floor the next morning, officers concluded.

"We found no evidence she had been in contact with any strangers before the incident," Zi Xiangdong, a spokesman for Beijing Municipal Public Security Bureau, said on Wednesday. "There were also no suspicious signs discovered in checks at the scene or in the autopsy report."

The case is still under investigation, he said.

Li Chaogang, Party chief of Fengtai district, said officials were visiting shop owners one by one on Wednesday to talk with them and collect any evidence.

"Our priority is to comfort the shop owners, eliminate their panic, and ensure business at the mall carries on as normal," he said.

Duan Xiuying, who runs a shop in nearby Dahongmen market, said Yuan also had a part-time job at Dahongmen, which is open only in the morning. She said the protest started late on Tuesday, with only dozens of people at first.

"I wanted to join in and call for a thorough investigation, but when I arrived, it had been blocked by police," said Duan, who hails from Hebei province.

She said police officers should give the public a clear report about the case.