China’s government on Thursday vowed to investigate the death of 28-year-old Elebechi Celestine, the Nigerian national who died while in police custody in the southern city of Guangzhou.
State Media revealed that the businessman was arrested on Monday for fighting with the driver of an electric bicycle over a disputed fare.
He was taken to the police station where he died. Angry at the turn of events, between 100 and 500 Africans took to the streets to protest the Nigerian’s death.
Chinese security officials confirmed the Celestine’s death, but downplayed the seriousness of the racial tensions and protests in the southern China region.
In a statement by the Guangzhou Public Security Bureau, the protests was described thus: “some people stood on the road and caused [a] severe traffic jam.”
However images posted on Twitter bellied the statement as they depicted altercations between police officials and African protesters.
On Wednesday, the Nigerian Embassy in the China demanded a full investigation into Elebechi’s murder.
The circumstances surrounding his death remain unclear. Alternate accounts of what led to his death have surfaced on the internet. Some reports say the crowd that formed during the victim’s fare dispute with the electric bicycle rider, turned mob and beat the Nigerian to death.
Guangzhou officials negate the reports in a statement, however, claiming that the Nigerian “lost consciousness suddenly”. They said the police accted according to the law.
According to the AFP, Foreign Ministry spokesman, Hong Lei, said in a news briefing that any “relevant information” discovered in the course of their investigations into the Celestine’s death will be reported to the Nigerian side.
He gave no further details about the possible cause of death, the AFP said.
A local Chinese paper quoted Nigerian embassy spokesman Ademola Oladele as saying: “We hope to see an independent autopsy report.
“We hope the incident can be appropriately addressed so it will not affect the current excellent relations between Nigeria and China.”