Sometime after 9 pm on July 18, Linzhou police officer Guo Zengxi, off-duty and on a night-long bender, stumbled outside a KTV building, snatched a 7-month old infant out of an unfamiliar couple’s hands, raised her over his head, and slammed her into the ground. The young girl, named Yueyue, lost consciousness before being rushed to the hospital, then spent days in intensive care with multiple skull fractures.
Meanwhile, Guo stayed home on his chief’s orders, under the surveillance of his colleagues. He was only considered a “suspect.” It took nearly a month and widespread news coverage and outrage in social media before Guo was formally charged of any crime.
Like with many recent cases in China, many are left wondering whether this delay in justice was the result of incompetence, obstruction, or an awful mix of both.
This recent CCTV report, led by “One on One” reporter Dong Qian, is a revealing look into not only what transpired that July night, but also the lengths that local officials will go, if only to protect the image of the upstanding, trustworthy local policeman. Dong sits down with Guo as well as Yueyue’s father and the recently suspended police bureau chief in Linzhou. Here’s a summary of the 22-minute show.
Yueyue’s father was playing with his daughter outside a KTV building when Guo strolled by and nudged him. The father pushed back. Guo reached out and grabbed the child.
“Until then, while I was holding her, I wasn’t worried [about him],” the father says. “I didn’t know he was going to do that. It was fast. Two seconds.”
Yueyue’s father tried to take back his infant, but it was too late. Guo had stepped away, Yueyue in hand. Some accounts claim that Guo raised the child over his head. Others say that he simply lost grip. Yueyue hit the ground, let out a brief cry, then went silent.
“I hit the table. I cried,” says Linzhou police chief Wei Shuping, recounting the morning after the incident — the moment he caught wind of Guo’s actions.
What happened next is a comedy of errors, from misfiled medical reports to clumsily distributed hush money (“We wanted to make sure they could afford the best doctors,” says Wei, explaining the 20,000 yuan “donation” to Yueyue’s family), and a month-long twiddling of thumbs.
Guo woke up the morning after the crime sober and “repentant” for what he had done. On camera, he is handcuffed and flanked by two guards.
“You used to put handcuffs on others,” the reporter notes, “and now you are wearing them yourself.”
Guo, at the very least, looks remorseful for how one night of drinking ruined so many lives.
When the reporter asks Guo about whether the ordeal was the result of a drunken bet, as was originally reported, he responds, “That’s a joke. I want to clear this up: it’s fabricated. I can’t figure out how it started, but it’s all false.”
“Then how did this all happen?” Dong asks.
“After drinking, I really don’t know what happened.”
It took more than a month for Guo to end up behind bars. He was escorted home and put on a sort of unofficial house arrest for seven days. Afterwards, Guo’s physical and emotional state convinced the bureau to allow him to leave his house. This entire time, and throughout the following weeks, the bureau chief claimed that they were waiting for formal charges from Yueyue’s family, as well as for final reports from the chief medical examiner. Neither came.
Dong sits patiently while Wei explains the legal process that blocked them from leveling charges against Guo. It’s a classic exercise in politics to divert the blame through technicalities, but while Wei denies a cover-up, he finally admits that he did not really want Guo’s crime to come to public light. And why would he? With something this egregious, and with the entire reputation of the local police on the line, why not just plug your ears and start humming?
But something like this never goes away so easily, especially given the witnesses (and apparently a video) at the scene of the crime. In a month’s time, the story explodes on social media. A news organization puts together a sensationalist animation recreating the incident, and the Linzhou Police Bureau finds itself in the national spotlight.
In a very telling moment near the end, Dong finally, almost angrily, asks Wei whether the bureau deliberately staged a cover-up.
“We didn’t have the means or a reason to do so. If a reporter asks us questions, can we obstruct them from asking?”
Dong later snaps, “You must know that you are not just police; you are the People’s Police. Do not forget those two characters (人民).”
Wei looks straight back at Dong. He apologizes for injuring the family, injuring the reputation of the police, and injuring the public trust. He then asks if the interview can be done with, stands up, and bows to the camera.