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Last Updated: Wednesday, 9 January 2008, 21:38 GMT
Killing sparks protests in China
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The beating to death of a man who filmed a dispute between officials and villagers in China on his mobile phone has prompted a nationwide outcry.

Thousands of people have been posting messages on Chinese websites calling for the government agency involved in the incident to be abolished.

There have also been large demonstrations in the province of Hubei where the attack occurred.

Local police questioned 24 people over the killing, four remain in custody.

Calls for a rethink

The dispute was began when local people attempted to stop a rubbish truck from dumping refuse at a site that they argued was too close to their village, China state media reported.

Members of the Chinese municipal inspectors, known as the Chengguan, intervened.

The victim, Wei Wenhua, the manager of a construction company in Tianmen City, was driving by and stopped to film the confrontation on his mobile phone.

When Mr Wei refused the Chengguan's demands that he delete the footage, he was beaten to death on the spot, according to witnesses cited by the Xinhua news agency.

Communist Party chief of Tianmen City, Bie Bixiong, told Xinhua that those responsible would be punished according to the law.

The death has triggered not only protests in his home town but sparked a nationwide call for a rethink of the very establishment of the Chengguan.

Chinese internet users are posting comments with titles such as "Municipal enforcers eliminating witness" and "How could they violate the law like this?"

Excessive force

The BBC's China editor Shirong Chen says that this is not the first time that the Chengguan have beaten someone to death.

Ever since the agency came into existence 10 years ago, there have been repeated criticism of them using excessive force.

This para-police force, equipped with steel helmets and stab-proof vests, is often used by local officials as trouble-shooters, he adds.

In 2003, the death in custody of a young man in south China resulted in the abolition of the notorious migrant detention system.

Now many Chinese hope the death of Mr Wei will bring down the municipal inspection apparatus itself, our correspondent says.

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