China officials tried for wounding after graft suspect dies

BEIJING - Six Chinese corruption investigators went on trial Tuesday for "intentional injury", a court said, after they allegedly drowned an official in a probe.

Yu Qiyi, chief engineer of a state-owned company in Wenzhou, Zhejiang province, died in April after the investigators stripped him naked and repeatedly held him down in a bathtub as they attempted to extort a confession to corruption, according to previous Chinese media reports.

Relatives also found multiple bruises on the 42-year-old's body after his death. He had been detained since early March over suspected wrongdoings in a land deal, they said.

The investigators, five of them reportedly from the ruling Communist Party's discipline inspection department and the other one a local prosecutor, were accused of intentional injury and went on trial Tuesday, the court in Quzhou told AFP.

But Pu Zhiqiang, a Yu family lawyer, complained that he and another representative were denied the right to question the accused in court and were refused entry to the afternoon session.

More senior officials should be held responsible for Yu's death, he told AFP. "We found out there are a lot of shady deals in this case," he said.

One of the defendants told the court that the decision to use the water technique had been made by a superior, who later ordered all the accused to take responsibility and collude in providing identical testimony, he added.

"We think that person should be the lead defendant," Pu added.

China's new leadership has mounted a high-profile anti-corruption drive since Xi Jinping took over as party chief, warning that corruption could destroy the party and threatening to expose high-ranking officials, or "tigers", along with low-level "flies".

Some senior figures have been ensnared, among them Jiang Jiemin, who oversaw state-owned firms, and Liu Tienan, once a deputy director of the influential National Development and Reform Commission.

Sudden deaths of officials while under investigation are not unknown in China.

Qian Guoliang, a seismological official in Huangmei county in the central province of Hubei, died in June after he was taken away by the party's anti-graft investigators, previous Chinese media reports said.

His face was out of shape and his body carried bruises and festering sores when relatives saw him in hospital, they said.