01/19/2007, 00.00
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A 16-year-old girl is murdered, crowd of 20,000 torch hotel where she worked

The crowd gathered in front of Sichuan hotel to protest management’s claim the girl died of an overdose. Police arrest two suspects after the fire. Link to footage of the incident available in the article.

Dazhu (AsiaNews) – A crowd of more than 20,000 people torched a luxury hotel in Dazhu, in the south-western province of Sichuan, to protest the alleged rape and murder of a 16-year-old girl who worked there. Click here to see mobile phone footage.

Crowds were angered by the hotel’s management which initially stonewalled the investigation, claiming the girl had died of a drug overdose.

The girl, Yang Daili, worked as a karaoke hostess in the Nest Business Hotel. She was found dead in a hotel room on December 30. Police enquiries initially yielded little evidence, and the hotel said she had died of an overdose.

But the girl’s friends and classmates did not believe the official version of event. On Wednesday they gathered in front of the hotel demanding more be done to find out what happened.

The protest was initially peaceful, but turned ugly after the hotel posted a notice denying any involvement in the girl’s death, telling protesters to disperse or the riot police would be called Protesters started throwing stones, stormed the hotel, and then set fire to it.

Only after this did provincial authorities order an inquiry into Yang’s death and possible ties between the hotel and local police.

Police yesterday announced they had arrested two suspects in the case of the girl’s death. One was described as “suspected rapist Liu Chikun”.

The report, which was picked up by Radio Free Asia, found its way onto Chinese blogs. One claimed that Yang was drugged and raped repeatedly by karaoke room clients with the tacit consent of the hotel’s management.

What happened in Dazhu is symptomatic of broader social tensions in China. Demonstrations are frequent and often involve violent clashes with the police.

According to Zhou Yongkang, Chinese public security minister, the number of recorded cases of public unrest went from 10,000 in 1994 to 74,000 in 2004. In 2005 they were 87,000.

Every day there are between 120 and 230 such episodes, mostly in rural areas, where local officials seize land to sell to companies to build large-scale plants or facilities. Residents are fraudulently deprived of their land or receive inadequate compensation, triggering spontaneous outbursts of anger and often violence.

In recent months, protests have drawn larger crowds and anti-government demonstrations have grown increasingly violent.

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