The Chinese authorities momentarily lost control over public information this weekend when their desperate endeavours to cover up the rape and murder of a 15-year-old girl lead to violent riots in the south-western Guinzhou province. Web users destroyed officials' attempts to downplay the enormity of events by continuously posting images and accounts of the protests.
Online accounts say that after her body was found in the river, local residents said that Li Shufen had been raped and murdered by three relatives of Yuhua county officials. However, the three accused were released without charge after eight hours following the results of a basic autopsy which reported that she had committed suicide. When her uncle, who she lived with, complained about procedures, he was so badly beaten that he was taken to hospital. Information about the attempted cover-up soon got onto the internet and people started speaking about it on forums and chat sites such as Baidu and Tainya. Asian TV went to interview Li's uncle, a teacher, in hospital. Three hours later he died. Discussions escalated until Saturday, when a reported 10,000 people took to the streets to protest the handling of the case.
Videos and photos of the riots (below) show chaos as a local administration building burns and cars lie overturned in the road. Web users managed to keep the documents online for a few days by constantly re-posting them onto different sites as the censors worked to remove them. Today, however, accounts of the incidents have completely disappeared. The only information available to the public comes from official news agency Xinhua, which states: "some people who did not know about the exact context of what had happened were instigated to mob the police station and the office buildings of the county government and Communist Party committee". The authorities are appealing for rioters to turn themselves in and have so far arrested almost 200 people.