On Monday Wei Wenhua, the manager of a construction company in Tianmen City, drove past a disturbance between a group of municipal city inspectors and local residents over the dumping of rubbish near their homes.
Wei used his mobile phone to film the protest but was seen and surrounded by a group of about 50 inspectors, known as 'Chengguan', who demanded he delete the footage.
When he refused he was surrounded and beaten up for five minutes, despite handing over the phone.
He died in the ambulance on the way to hospital. Four other people were hospitalised in the incident.
"Wei is the first ‘citizen journalist’ to die in China because of what he was trying to film," said Reporters Without Borders.
"He was beaten to death for doing something which is becoming more and more common and which was a way to expose law enforcement officers who keep on overstepping the limits."
Four people have been arrested over the death. The mobile phone has been recovered but the footage had been deleted. Another 100 people are under investigation.
The Chengguan are responsible enforcing urban planning regulations and removing unlicensed traders but since their introduction ten years ago they have become increasingly unpopular.
Qi Zhengjun, chief of the city urban administration bureau lost his job over the incident, state media reported. Wei's fourteen year old daughter, who has not yet been told of death of her father, has been promised free education by the state.
Since the incident Associated Press is reporting that thousands have people have marched in protest at the killing. Meanwhile Chinese state media has signalled that a rethink may be in order due to the protest.
Chen Yizhong, a state media blogger, asked why this type of violence isn’t met with harder restrictions.
“Cities need administration but urban administrators [such as Zhengjun] need to be governed by law first.”
'Citizen journalist' beaten to death by Chinese authorities
By Iain Thomson on Jan 14, 2008 6:55AM