Hotel Worker's Murder at Work Leads to Thousands-Strong Protest
Signaling Deep Discontent with Widespread Corruption and Impunity
outside the Nest Business Hotel, where bar worker Yang Daili was raped
small regional town in Sichuan province in western China has become
the latest site for the vast number of protests occurring across the
country in response to people’s discontent with rampant corruption
and government impunity.
Up to 20,000 people, according to some reports, demonstrated over
a number of days outside the four-star Nest Business Hotel following
the death of a 16-year-old female hotel worker, who was raped and
murdered on the premises. On the night of January 17, the protests
reached a climax as people stormed the hotel and set it alight. Others
in the crowd stopped attempts by fire crews to put the fire out. After
five hours the fire was extinguished, but not before the hotel was
extensively damaged (see photo at right).
Official reports in state-controlled media initially stated that Yang
Daili died from alcohol poisoning early in the morning of December
30, 2006 after being with hotel guests (unofficial reports suggest
these guests were government officials).
However, the circumstances surrounding her death were suspicious and
her friends and family refused to believe reports given by the hotel
owners and the police. Reports from non-official media stated that
Yang Daili had been drugged, sexually assaulted and brutally mutilated
The hotel is owned by a police station director and local government
officials and following Yang Daili’s death the hotel offered
her parents 500,000 RMB (approx. US$65,000) to settle the matter privately.
Her family refused the offer and demanded a proper investigation.
Reports suggest that at first the police failed to investigate properly
and continued to claim Yang Daili had died from alcohol poisoning.
A later claim was made that there were needle marks on her arms and
had died from drugs. Her father Yang Wanguo then began to receive
conflicting reports: “the county government found a report from
who knows where that said my daughter had been raped. But I have yet
to see this report… the provincial judicial department came
to do two autopsies. They said that the four needle marks were fake.
We are totally befuddled” (quoted in Southern Metropolis Daily,
19 January 2007). Police arrested a hotel worker, but friends and
family did not believe this was the real culprit.
Stirred by the inadequacies of the government response and suspicious
of collusion between the police and government officials, friends
and family began to assemble outside the hotel in protest on 15 January.
The protests swelled over the next two days until 17 January when,
in effect, a rebellion broke out, which targeted the hotel.
This response by the people of Dazhu can only be understood in the
context of the systematic corruption and impunity of government officials
in contemporary China. Workers have no protection in their jobs. There
are no independent unions which can agitate and organise to defend
workers' interests. The police offer no avenue for justice. Economic
inequality grows by leaps and bounds.
At the same time a class made up of government, military and party
officials collude with business interests in a drive for the continuous
accumulation of personal wealth through exploitation and corruption.
Such circumstances are the breeding grounds for rebellion, and each
"incident" such as occurred in Dazhu, cumulatively builds
ever greater waves of mass revulsion at the failure of the government
in China to develop a society built on justice, equality and democracy.