Chinese families demand release of Shanghai stampede victims’ bodies after foreigners’ remains are returned

Locals demand equal treatment from the authorities after the remains of only the foreigners are returned to their families


Policemen guard the Bund in Shanghai, where 36 people died in a stampede last week. Photo: Reuters

Dozens of relatives of those killed in the New Year’s Eve stampede in Shanghai protested outside the gate of the municipal government building yesterday, demanding that the authorities compensate them and let them take the bodies of their loved ones home.

Many of the victims’ bodies are still being kept in funeral homes by the authorities as investigation into the stampede continues, but the bodies of two foreigners – a Malaysian and a Taiwanese – have already been sent home.

Local families demanded the same prompt handling for their loved ones as well as compensation, but negotiations yesterday fell through after officials remained firm on not releasing the bodies, one relative said.

At least 36 people were killed and 49 injured in the stampede at Shanghai’s riverside Bund late on Wednesday night, 25 minutes before New Year’s Day. Most were in their 20s.

As of noon yesterday, 25 people remained hospitalised, including seven seriously injured, according to the Shanghai government. One was in the intensive care unit at the Shanghai No 1 People’s Hospital.

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A young man from Chengdu, Sichuan province, who had lost his cousin in the accident, said the authorities were keeping a close watch over the relatives.

“We have been arranged to stay at different places. There are three people following us wherever we go,” he said, referring to people sent by the government to manage the relatives.

A man prays for people killed in a New Year’s Eve crush at the site of the stampede in Shanghai. Photo: AFPThe man, who did not want to be named, said city government officials had yet to offer the relatives any kind words or to initiate any discussion on the incident, which many believe was a result of the government’s negligence.

“The mainlanders are being treated so differently from the Taiwanese … We wanted to talk to the government, but it didn’t want to talk to us,” he said. “At least the Taiwanese family has taken the body home, but we, local families, are still being banned from seeing the loved ones we lost.”

The father of victim Wu Caixia, from Hubei province, said officials told the relatives the government still needed more time to sort things out as they had only finished identifying the victims on Saturday.

State media earlier said that President Xi Jinping had instructed the authorities to “do everything in their power” to help those injured and to launch an immediate inquiry into the incident.

Shanghai police have admitted they underestimated the number of people expected to show up for the festivities at the Bund and that they did not deploy sufficient manpower for crowd control that night.

A senior police source was earlier quoted as saying that many Huangpu district officials and police were likely to lose their jobs over the incident.

“A lot of heads will roll” because the tragedy had infuriated state leaders, the source said.

In a similar case in Beijing’s Miyun district in 2004, more than a dozen officials were held responsible after 37 people died and 15 were injured in a stampede on an overcrowded canal bridge in a park during Lantern Festival celebrations.

The district mayor resigned and 14 other officials were punished, including two who were each sentenced to three years in prison.


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