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Cell death probed by Netizens

WHEN authorities said a suspect confined to a detention house in south China died during a game of blind man's bluff, the man's family and a large number of Internet bloggers were incredulous.

So, in an effort to promote public confidence, the Yunnan Province publicity department decided to take the unusual step of allowing a task force that included Netizens to investigate the February 12 death.

The probe, by a 15-member group made up of five Netizens, three reporters, four public security and prosecutors staff, two white-collar workers and a college student, began yesterday.

Members of the Jinning County public security bureau told the group that the 24-year-old victim, Li Qiaoming, 24, hit his head on the door frame of his cell in the county's detention house after he was attacked by another inmate while playing the game with five others. Guards did not witness the event.

Blind beating

The blindfolded Li was fatally injured when he identified the inmate Pu, who reacted angrily, kicking and punching Li and causing him to lose his balance, according to police.

Guards later discovered Li lying in a coma in his cell and sent him out for treatment. He died four days later in a hospital in the provincial capital of Kunming, where doctors found a 5-centimeter cut on the back of his head.

Li, from Yunnan's Yuxi City, was taken into custody in Jinning on January 30 for cutting trees without authorization in an attempt to make money for his wedding, the Oriental Morning Post reported.

The explanation behind the fatality given to the group that visited the detention house yesterday was consistent with an earlier version but was more detailed.

Li's family was initially told by police only that the inmate Li had fallen in the detention house and was in critical condition. When Li's father and his younger brother arrived at the hospital, they found Li in a coma, bathed in blood and with his head swollen.

Family angry

Li's family was angry over the scant information released about the man's death. A newspaper in Kunming published a story on February 13 saying that the Li had died while playing blind man's bluff, or duomaomao, in Chinese.

The news sparked widespread discussions online, and duomaomao quickly became a popular Internet expression.

"I've never heard such a funny joke," wrote Kunming's Liu Yun at an online forum.

The Yunnan Provincial Publicity Department posted a notice on major Yunnan-based Websites on Thursday afternoon, seeking people to join in the investigation.

More than 510 people responded.

"It was the first time in Yunnan, and even in China, that Netizens were asked to participate in an investigation," said Gong Gei, an official from the provincial publicity department. There was no immediate response from the commission.


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