Image posted on

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 24 hours by constantly re-posting comments about the events 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.

Search engines stalled by blocks

Typing Li Shufen's name into Google China returns several results. However, if you try to click on any of them, you get a "file not found" message.

Videos now "no longer available" on the Chinese YouTube

These videos, posted on YouTube on 28 June 08 by shjduao, are no longer available on Chinese servers.

Images of the riots posted by web users

Riots outside a public administration buildings in Yuhua town on Saturday. Posted on ChinaRenClub.



According to an account on three state buildings were set on fire.


Li Shufen's uncle in hospital. He died shortly after he was interviewed by Asian TV on Saturday afternoon.


A photo of the girl, who web users identified as Li Shufen.


Li's body remains in a refrigerated coffin by the river while the dispute continues.