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Chinese Official Fired Over Beating Death


A government official in central China has been fired after more than 50 of his staff beat a man to death. The excessive use of force has been widely condemned in China and has once again thrown the spotlight on abuse of authority by powerful Chinese officials. Daniel Schearf reports from Beijing.

China's official Xinhua news agency said Friday that urban management chief Qi Zhengjun was fired for the beating death of 41-year-old Wei Wenhua.

Dozens of Qi's staff attacked Wei on Monday for attempting to record a conflict between themselves and villagers on his mobile phone. The villagers were trying to stop garbage from being dumped near their homes. Wei later died from the beating.

Qi was in charge of the urban management bureau in Hubei province's Tianmen city. The bureaus are responsible for maintaining public facilities and clearing streets of illegal peddlers and beggars. But the bureaus have come under criticism for excessive use of force.

"These people have unchecked, unregulated power and for the majority of Chinese citizens they have little or no opportunity for protection or redress from the excesses of these authorities," said Phelim Kine, an Asia researcher for Human Rights Watch.

He says the urban management bureaus have become corrupt.

"There is a lot of potential for revenue generation, corruption, and other squeeze techniques in monitoring and supposedly conducting their task of keeping the streets orderly," added Kine.

Xinhua said Qi is among more than 100 people under investigation for the death, but did not say what charges they may face.

Chinese media and people in Internet chat rooms have condemned the attack and called for tough punishment for officials who abuse their power. Some have called for abolishing the bureaus, which are seen as targeting the poor.

In the past tensions between the inspectors and illegal street vendors have boiled over several times. In 2006 an illegal food vendor in Beijing stabbed and killed an inspector when he tried to confiscate the vendor's sausage cart - his only means of income.

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