Beijing prosecutors have granted bail to four of five policemen being investigated for dereliction of duty after a 29-year-old Beijing environmental scientist died in their custody less than an hour after his arrest.
The mysterious death of Lei Yang in May prompted a massive public outcry against perceived police brutality.
Police originally claimed that Lei died of a heart attack. However, as pressure mounted for a third-party investigation, Beijing prosecutors conducted their own autopsy and released their findings in July that determined Lei suffocated on gastric fluid.
Prosecutors then formally arrested a deputy police chief of Changping district’s Dongxiaokou police branch and another auxiliary officer who played the lead roles in “inappropriate acts”, accusing both of obstructing justice after Lei’s death.
The municipal prosecutors’ office announced on Tuesday that the deputy police chief would be officially charged with dereliction of duty while the other four being investigated would be granted bail.
Ge Yongxi, a Guangzhou-based rights lawyer, said the authorities must make all details of the case public to prevent a similar tragedy happening again.
“But, in reality, a large body of facts has been withheld,” Ge said. “Critical questions remain unanswered. Did Lei really solicit prostitutes, or was he was brutally assaulted? And whatever happened to the live footage acquired by police at the scene?”
Feng Haihe, a lawyer from Henan province, called on judicial authorities to hold other parties accountable while proceeding with the case.
“A number of influential media outlets contributed to the character assassination of Lei before the truth was unveiled – for example, airing so-called witness statements that turned out to be untrue. They should be held accountable for obstructing justice, too,” Feng said.
Lei, a graduate of the prestigious Renmin University, was taken into custody after visiting a foot massage parlour on May 7.
According to police, he was arrested at 9.15pm for allegedly soliciting prostitutes and taken to a police station in Changping. About 50 minutes later he was rushed to a nearby hospital, showing no signs of life.
Police claimed Lei resisted arrest. A prostitute also told state television he had used her services. Mainland media cited witnesses as saying Lei was chased by plain-clothes officers and fought with them at the scene of the arrest.
But Lei’s family said he was at home that night until he went to the airport to pick up a relative at about 9pm.
Meanwhile, the State Council released a guideline to refine auxiliary police management in terms of the officers’ role, recruitment and monitoring.