Rioters clash with armed police in the streets of Shishou Saturday afternoon.

Authorities say he jumped from the third floor. Local residents say he was murdered. The death of a cook from central China's Shishou town caused an outburst of violence in the streets on Saturday, resulting in a harsh response from the riot police. And just in time to get past the censors, Web users have managed to pass on these images of events.

Tu Yuangao was 24 when he was found dead in front of the Yonglong hotel last Wednesday, where he worked as a chef. His bosses say he jumped from the third floor. The establishment in question was known to be involved with drug trafficking. It is also partly owned by the local mayor. The police claim they found a suicide note by the body. But Tu's family says there's no way he jumped. They believe that the hotel bosses are behind his death.

Tu's parents say that his body and face were covered in blood, but not a trace was found near where he lay. The hotel owner offered 30,000 RMB [€3,200] to the family as compensation, in recognition of the suicide. The police then ordered that the body be cremated. Outraged, Tu's father unwrapped his son's body in the hotel entrance. Armed with a gas canister, he insisted that he would not move until he knew the truth behind Tu's death, threatening to blow himself up if anyone came close.

It didn't take long for sympathisers to assemble outside the hotel. When the police tried to intervene at one o'clock in the morning, they were faced with 2,000 people blocking the entrance of the hotel. By morning that number had risen to 40,000, inciting the police to call on back-up in the form of riot police. The Centre for Human Rights and Democracy based in Hong Kong reported 200 were injured.

By Sunday morning the situation had calmed down. But according to our Observer there, the town remains under high surveillance.

"Many were just using it as an excuse to vent their anger against the local government"

Wang works in Shishou's Zhongshan Business hotel, 300 metres from the hotel Tu worked in. She was at the scene on Monday.

Although people said it was between 40,000 and 50,000, i think it was more like 10,000 people who came out in support of Tu. My colleague saw everything and told me that it was very violent. The rioters were actually chasing the police and throwing bricks and bottles through their windows.  

Today the situation is more calm because the authorities have finally taken away the body. There are still an enormous amount of police around the hotel. People are still gathered outside, but they're not protesting. People are curious; they come to see what's going on.

Half of the people protesting this weekend were there in support of the family, but many were just using it as an excuse to vent their anger against the local government."

Photos posted by Web users

The rioters set fire to the hotel on Saturday night. Tu's parents, who were inside at the time,  managed to get out in time with the body.

These photos were posted here and here.

Forces back down in face of the rioters