BEIJING (Reuters) - The daughter of a Chinese villager whose death in custody has ignited days of protests has dismissed as groundless official explanations that he died of heart failure, as residents gathered in their thousands to mourn him.
Xue Jinbo died in southern Guangdong province as police moved to try to quell a long-standing dispute over land seizures in Wukan village on the east coast of the booming region. Since then, villagers have staged fresh protests.
Eldest daughter Xue Jianwan, in an interview published this week by an online Hong Kong magazine, said there were signs of bruising and physical abuse all over her father's body.
She also said authorities refused initially to tell the family where her father had been taken.
"My father had absolutely no history of heart problems. If he was really sick, they ought to have told his family immediately so we could go see him, but they did not," she told iSun Affairs.
"They kept saying if our village continued to demand the land, they most certainly would not let us see anyone or let anyone out," she said.
Jianwan told iSun Affairs that three unidentified men without an arrest warrant had pounced on her father, tied his hands with plastic binders and taken him away.
"My mother was beside herself and kept asking how my father was, was there anything wrong with his health, where he was and could we go and see him. They would not say, and kept putting us off," she told the magazine.
Finally they produced a document that said Jinbo had died after being sent to the hospital for emergency treatment. Officials then eventually produced the body.
"There were bruises all over, his hands were puffy and there were bruises on his wrists. There were wounds and it looked like his thumbs had been pulled back and broken," Jianwan said. "On his back there were many marks showing he had been beaten or stamped on."
Residents reached by telephone on Friday that the whole village turned out to mourn Jinbo. One resident put the number at 7,000.
"Everyone is still very angry. The government still has not returned the body," said one villager, asking not be identified due to the sensitive nature of the situation.
"This unrest could go on for some time. I'm worried about how it's all going to end," added another.
The government says that Jinbo fell ill on Sunday, his third day in detention on suspicion of helping organize the rally. State media says hospital doctors later pronounced the man dead from heart failure.
The government of Shanwei, a district including Wukan, said on Wednesday a "handful" of Communist Party members and officials accused of misdeeds over the disputed land development were detained and that the main land development project had been suspended, the official Xinhua news agency reported.
In a bid to allay suspicions that other villagers detained over unruly protests in September had been abused, the local government put online footage of four suspects being visited by relatives and reassuring them of their well-being.
Although the Communist Party has ruled over decades of growth that have protected it from challenges to its power, China is confronted by thousands of smaller-scale protests every year.
One expert on unrest, Sun Liping of Tsinghua University in Beijing, estimated that there could have been over 180,000 "mass incidents" in 2010.
But many Chinese experts put numbers at about half that in recent years. The government has not given any unrest statistics for years.
(Reporting by Chris Buckley and Ben Blanchard; Editing by Nick Macfie)