Killing makes Chinese hostess a symbol of discontent

BEIJING Wed May 27, 2009 2:59pm IST

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BEIJING (Reuters) - A Chinese waitress accused of murdering a government official when he tried to assault her has become the latest symbol of public discontent with untrammelled power, drawing a wave of sympathy for the woman.

Deng Yujiao stabbed township official Deng Guida to death at a bathhouse on May 10 in central Hubei province after she refused to provide "special services" -- slang for sex -- the county government said in a statement, citing police.

Deng Guida pulled out a stack of cash and tossed it at Deng Yujiao, before pushing her down on a sofa, the statement said. The waitress picked up a knife and stabbed him.

She was detained on suspicion of murder, not the lesser charge of manslaughter in the case of self-defence, and released on bail on Wednesday, Xinhua news agency said. She has not been formally charged.

The two Dengs are not related.

The case has generated intense local media coverage and criticism from the country's avid Internet users, many of whom see the young woman as a symbol of powerlessness before officials wielding power and wealth.

"Everyone should pay attention to Yujiao," one web user commented on Sina.com, a popular Chinese site. "Because we care not only about her fate, but also about whether the law can protect every citizen."

Many Chinese questioned changes in government statements as favouring the officials' version of events, and the government has been accused of pressuring Deng Yujiao's mother to replace two lawyers from Beijing by a local pair.

For many, the woman's story carries a broader lesson.

A group of students at China Women's University even put on a performance to protest against the case, featuring a bound and gagged woman lying in front of large characters reading "We could all become Deng Yujiao", according to pictures circulated online.

Over the weekend a group of lawyers, academics and reporters met in Beijing to call for the case to be open to public scrutiny.

Ba Zhongwei, a rights activist who attended the Beijing meeting, said it was natural for people to be angry.

"The reason it's drawn such a lot of attention is that it represents the reality that disadvantaged groups are treated unfairly," Ba said.

Telephone calls to the county government's spokesman, Ouyang Kaiping, went unanswered.

Last year, migrant worker Yang Jia gained widespread sympathy after he hacked six policemen to death in Shanghai. Yang said they had beaten and abused him after he was detained on suspicion of stealing a bicycle.

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