Riot in China city after official dies in custody

By CHRISTOPHER BODEEN | June 11, 2011 | 5:30 AM EDT

BEIJING (AP) — Paramilitary police patrolled the streets of a central Chinese city on Saturday following a riot over the death of city councilman while in police custody, residents said.

State media said authorities suspended a deputy Communist Party chief in Lichuan in Hubei province in an apparent effort to calm the anger caused by the June 4 death of local People's Congress deputy Ran Jianxin. At least one other official has resigned and three more are under investigation, the Xinhua News Agency said.

While Ran's death remains officially under investigation, relatives say he was beaten to death and have circulated photos on the Internet purporting to show bruises covering his body.

Thursday's riot prompted police to bring in reinforcements from the paramilitary People's Armed Police backed by armored vehicles. The patrols were reported by residents reached by phone who refused to give their names for fear of reprisals.

"There hasn't been any trouble for the last two days, but the PAP are patrolling regularly outside," said one woman reached at her home.

Li Wei, the city's deputy party boss in charge of discipline, was suspended on Friday and placed under investigation over Ran's death, according to Xinhua. Ran, 49, had been undergoing interrogation on charges of taking bribes from construction contractors when he was rushed to a hospital on June 4, it said.

"Ran's cousin said he found signs of wounds and bruises on Ran's body at the hospital and believed that they were signs of an 'unnatural death,'" Xinhua said.

There were no reports of injuries or arrests in Thursday's riot outside city government offices, although photos posted to microblogs appeared to show policemen clubbing and kicking people. Estimates of the size of the crowd ran from 2,000 to 20,000.

Staff at government offices referred all questions to the local Communist Party propaganda office, where phones rang unanswered Saturday. An officer at Lichuan's police headquarters said she would have to get permission from her superiors to answer questions about the incident and did not call back.