BEIJING (Reuters) - Chinese police have cleared an officer of wrongdoing after he shot and killed a civilian earlier this month, state media reported on Thursday, in an incident that stirred outrage among many Chinese over what they saw as abuse of power.
The railway police of Harbin, the provincial capital of northeastern Heilongjiang province, said Li Lebin had shot Xu Chunhe “as part of his duty and Li did not violate protocol”, state news agency Xinhua said.
Xu, 45, who was traveling with his 81-year-old mother and three children, “allegedly initiated the assault on Li and continued the attack despite multiple warnings before the police officer shot him”, Xinhua said, citing the police.
Calls to the railway police of Harbin went unanswered.
Xinhua said that Xu had forcibly preventing passengers passing through the security gate at Qing‘an Railway Station in Suihua city. When Li tried to stop him, Xu picked up a child and threw him at the police. After that, he tried to grab Li’s gun and club, prompting Li to shoot Xu.
Internet users have expressed outrage on Weibo, China’s version of Twitter, with many saying the shooting illustrates the widespread sense of impunity among police officers. The issue was among the most talked-about topics on Weibo on Thursday.
Such incidents could risk embarrassing China’s ruling Communist Party, which is sensitive to rising public anger over official misdeeds.
Earlier on Thursday, state television CCTV broadcast security camera footage that showed Xu attacking the officer with a baton.
But the lawyer representing Xu’s family, Xie Yanyi, rejected CCTV’s version of events. Xie told Reuters by telephone that the video was edited to “demonize his client’s morals”. He said that Xu did hit the police officer and knock his child to the ground, as shown in the CCTV footage, but was not a threat to anyone besides the police.
“These circumstances do not meet the necessary and sufficient conditions for the legitimacy and necessity to shoot,” Xie said.
“I still believe in the public’s ability to judge. Despite a small number of people being persuaded by their (CCTV‘s) conspiracy, this will stand up to the test of time,” he said.
On Wednesday, New York-based Human Rights Watch said that six years after China took steps to crack down on torture by police, detainees continue to be beaten, hanged by their wrists and shackled to iron chairs.
Reporting by Sui-Lee Wee; Editing by Nick Macfie