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China official sacked after web video triggers outrage over assault on 11-year-old girl

Posted by Author on November 4, 2008

Jane Macartney in Beijing, Times Online, UK, November 5, 2008-

Internet outrage has forced the dismissal of a senior Chinese Communist Party official after video footage from a restaurant security camera showed him shoving the father of an 11-year-old girl he had allegedly assaulted.

It was a moment that stirred fury among parents concerned for the child and touched a chord among the tens of millions of Chinese angered at abuse of power that has become increasingly blatant as prosperity has offered more opportunities for officials to profit from their positions.

Armies of netizens have taken part in numerous online manhunts in China in the past couple of years, but this appears to be the first time that a search by “human flesh engines” has resulted in the sacking of a senior government official and even a police investigation.

The incident began last week when a male diner at a seafood restaurant in the southern city of Shenzhen asked a young girl walking past his table to direct him to the lavatories. Closed-circuit television footage shows a pot-bellied man in a white shirt following a little girl with a ponytail across the room. A couple of minutes later the girl is seen running back alone.

Reports on the internet say the child told her parents that the man grabbed her by the neck and tried to force her into the toilets. She ran for help. The video shows her reappearing with her parents to look for the man. He returns to the dining room and into the frame, where he is seen shoving away the girl’s father when challenged to explain his behaviour.

Even state media said that the man then shouted: “Yes, I did it. So what? How much to you want? Just tell me. I’ll give you the money.”

The two men argue and the older man points and tries to push away the father. He shouts: “Do you know who I am? I am from the Ministry of Transportation in Beijing. I have the same seniority as the mayor of your city. So what if I grabbed the neck of a small child? You people count for fart! If you dare challenge me, just wait and see how I will deal with you.” When the father calls the police, the man leaves with his female companion.

Chinese websites reported that the police said the man had drunk too much, did not remember anything and, with no witnesses to the girl being assaulted, there was no evidence that he had behaved indecently.

An online furore soon led to his being tracked down and identified as Lin Jiaxiang, party secretary of the Shenzhen Maritime Bureau. Photos of Mr Lin, 58, receiving various government awards, including a commendation on behalf of his “Civilised Work Unit”, were soon plastered across the internet.

He was dismissed on Monday. The Ministry of Transport party committee said that his “wild words and behaviour have had an extremely negative impact on society”.

Online commentators were enraged about the incident. One wrote on the website “It looks like organised crime and the Government should swap places. In this case organised crime seems more righteous than the Government.”

The Times Online

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