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Prison death report criticized
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The highly anticipated report of a "hide-and-seek incident investigation committee", formed by common people to investigate the sudden death of a detainee, continued to draw fire from the online community.

The mysterious death of Li Qiaoming, 24, who allegedly died of a head injury while playing a "hide-and-seek" game with fellow detainees, sparked wide discussions and doubts over the Internet, which led to the government's decision to form the committee.

The committee's director published the report last Friday after the group was permitted to visit the prison.

However, authorities refused the committee's demands to interview other detainees and view the security tape, saying they were not authorized to do so.

The 7,200-word report detailed the committee's one-day visit to Jinning prison on a timeline, and recounted conversations between the members and the government officials on a word-for-word basis. However, it made no attempt to determine the cause of Li's death.

"This report is definitely not the one that 'deciphers' or 'exposes the truth of' the incident of 'hide-and-seek', we can only guarantee that our conscience and responsibility is served on this day, the rest is for members of online community to discuss," the report concludes.

On Tianya.cn, a popular online forum, more than 3,000 people offered comments below the report, which most derided as "meaningless".

"The authority reject the committee's access to the core of the incident in the name of law, this goes against their initial intention to 'satisfy the public's right to know the truth'," a blogger named Yirenlingen wrote.

Legal experts said the move could be a perversion of the legal process.

"The investigation committee doesn't have the right to participate, or the right to obtain evidence of an ongoing case," said Li Chunguang, law professor at Southwest Forestry University.

Zhao Qilong, of King Capital Law Firm, called it "meaningless and unlawful", as the general public does not have legal access to evidence of crimes.

He said even if the committee had made its discovery, it will have no legal effect unless adopted by a relevant government department.

Li's family has challenged the official explanation of Li's cause of death.

The police have rejected their demand to return the body for burial.

The amount of compensation is still in discussion.

(China Daily February 24, 2009)

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