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August 7, 2009

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Grieving relatives detained after riot

THE family of a chef whose suicide stirred a mass protest in a central China city has challenged the government's accountability after police detained some family members despite an agreement to exempt them from punishment.

Guo Zixin, one of the two government representatives who signed the deal, told the newspaper the exemption only applies if no law violations occurred.

Five family members have been detained among the 31 in custody on charges of disrupting social order and traffic in Hubei Province's Shishou City, Legal Daily reported yesterday.

Police told the newspaper 14 of the 31 were arrested and another 51 people were given administrative punishment.

The week-long unrest started on June 17 when Tu Yuangao, a 24-year-old chef at Yonglong Hotel in Shishou, was found dead outside the hotel. His family refused to let his body be taken by police, claiming they were trying to cover up a murder.

Thousands of protesters torched the hotel and overturned police cars.

The unrest ceased on June 25, after the chef's family reached a compensation deal.

According to the deal, the hotel owners offered 50,000 yuan (US$7,320) compensation and the local government shouldered 30,000 yuan for humanitarian reasons.

The deal also included an agreement to exempt family members from punishment for their involvement in the unrest, the chef's uncle Tu Deqiang told Legal Daily.

But officials denied the agreement exempts the family from punishment if they broke the law during the unrest.


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