01/17/2006, 00.00
CHINA
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Authorities pay to cover up murder by police in protest

 The residents of seven villages in the southern province of Guangdong accused the family of accepting a bribe to lie about their 15-year-old daughter's death. "More than 200 pairs of eyes can testify that she died in the hands of the police," said a witness.

Zhongshan (AsiaNews/SCMP) – The family of a 15-year-old girl beaten to death by police during a protest against land seizure in villages in Guangdong on Saturday has been accused by fellow villagers of accepting 130,000 yuan (around 13,000 euros) from local authorities to lie about the cause of her death.

An aunt of Feng Meiying – a second-year middle school student who died last week – claimed that her niece "did not come to the highway where the clash took place because it is far from our home. She died of heart trouble," and the body was cremated. The girl's father hung up the phone without replying when a journalist from the South China Morning Post asked whether his daughter was beaten to death.

Demonstrators claimed the girl had been killed during clashes which followed the government's failure to pay compensation for land seized from the farmers of seven villages in the area: one part will be used to build a highway and more than 200 hectares have been sold to a textile firm in Hong Kong.

The protest turned violent on the night of Saturday 14 January when more than 2,000 policemen indiscriminately attacked around 20,000 people – including demonstrators and passers-by – on a large highway. "We occupied the highway because we want to draw attention of the media to this injustice," said one women who took part in the protest.

The scenario repeated itself the following day, when between 5,000 and 6,000 people turned out to protest. According to Xinhua, the government press agency, the clashes took place but "between just over 100 protesters and the police, who used no tear gas or electronic batons or water cannon as people claimed they did." The agency added: "No one died in the incident ... and police used no weapons while dispersing the crowd… Some instigators of the attack were detained."

Residents of Sinfeng village in the muncipality of Sanjiao (where the Feng family lives), alleged this was untrue. "We think they are lying," said one resident who accused the police of causing the girl's death. Another farmer said he saw the girl throw a stone at the police when they were about to charge on the crowd and added that he saw her again later, being beaten near a police van. "More than 200 pairs of eyes could testify that Meiyang was killed."

A local government spokesperson dismissed everything as a "rumour" while a township government official confirmed Meiying's death, but said "it was not related to the clash".

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