Lanzhou (AsiaNews) – Violent protests broke out in Gansu province following the suicide of a 12-year-old girl, caught shoplifting chocolate and other items at a supermarket in Yongchang County.
Thousands of protesters gathered outside the store, causing a "mass incident", a term used by the authorities to describe protests that reflect deep divisions in society.
Police arrested ten protesters and the supermarket owner, who demanded repayment for the stolen goods. The mayor of the town, who tried to calm the situation, was attacked and seriously injured to the head.
The incident occurred on 28 December. The girl, surnamed Zhao, was stopped by supermarket employees for shoplifting. At first, the staff threatened and insulted her, then they forced her to call her relatives or she would be reported to police.
The girl called her mother and then her father. Both however did not have the money – 150 yuan (US$ 23) – to pay for the goods she had taken.
Since they could pay, the supermarket manager threatened to "take pictures [of the girl] and report the incident to police and school."
At that point, the girl managed to escape and killed herself by jumping off a nearby building.
This sparked a protest by thousands of demonstrators, mostly peaceful. Some, however, turned the event into a real confrontation with the police.
The next day people gathered in front of the supermarket, demanding explanations and laying flower wreaths in the girl’s memory.
A video showing stick-wielding protesters clashing with anti-riot police went viral.
As a result of the confrontation, police arrested ten people for rioting and the supermarket owner for being insensitive to the poor family.
The supermarket later decided to compensate the victim's parents.