"Tens of thousands of Chinese fight the police in Shishou
"It was a dramatic weekend in the relatively small city of Shishou in Hubei province.Tens of thousands of rioters torched a hotel and overturned police cars, after the authorities allegedly tried to cover up the murder of a 24-year-old man as a suicide.
The deceased, Tu Yuangao, was the chef of the Yong Long hotel. According to the cops, he committed suicide by jumping off the roof of the building and left a note.
Witnesses said there was no blood on the scene and Tu's body was already cold just after it hit the ground. His parents were surprised at the suicide note, since he was allegedly illiterate.
There are plenty of rumours flying around - that two other employees at the hotel had died in the same way, that the boss of the hotel is related to the mayor of Shishou, that the hotel was a centre for the local drug business and Yu was killed for threatening to expose what was going on. There's also a rumour that three further bodies have been found at the hotel.
It's a strange story, and it gets stranger. A huge mob, of anywhere between a few thousand to 70,000 people, depending on which report you read, quickly gathered outside the building. Tu's parents refused to let his body be taken away, and instead placed it inside the hotel on ice.
The crowd defended the body against waves of policemen. However, on Saturday, a fire was lit inside the hotel, but the corpse was saved. Tu's cousin apparently armed himself with two barrels of gasoline and threatened to blow himself up if the body was taken.
The police restored order yesterday, imposed a curfew and took the body to a funeral parlour. Today, the website of the local government has been defaced by hackers.
What's extraordinary is the speed in which the riot blew up, and the venom directed against the local authorities. Whatever was behind Tu's death, there's clearly something rotten in Shishou.
But after months of calm, there have been a spate of reported riots recently. Is this because media restrictions have been lifted, allowing news of riots to spread, or has there been a genuine increase in social tension in the countryside?
It is impossible to tell. China no longer publishes the figures for how many riots take place each year, but most people put the figure at around 80,000 and the vast majority go totally unnoticed.
The fact that there have been a dozen riots reported in the last couple of months may not demonstrate anything out of the ordinary. There is no theme that connects the recent protests - some are about property, some have been triggered by work disputes, some are because of corruption.
But then again, a huge number of migrant workers are still out of work because their factories have not recovered from the economic crisis, the harvest is finished and people's savings may be running low. Perhaps the tinderbox is drier than usual."