China Asked to Investigate Death of Nigerian in Police Custody

Nigeria asked China to investigate allegations that police in the southern city of Guangzhou used “high-handed” tactics in arresting a Nigerian citizen who later died in custody, the embassy said today.

Witnesses say Celestine Elebechi, born in 1984, fell into a coma after he was beaten on June 18 as he intervened in a dispute between a Chinese motorcycle driver and another Nigerian, Ademola Oladele, minister for public information at Nigeria’s embassy, said by phone. Once police arrived, Elebechi was taken into custody instead of being hospitalized, he said.

Hundreds of Africans in Guangzhou blocked traffic and surrounded the police station to protest Elebechi’s death and demand an investigation, Oladele said. Foreigners in the city, which is a hub for African traders and entrepreneurs including almost 10,000 Nigerians, have complained of discrimination there in the past, he said.

“Naturally, nationals and concerned citizens want to go onto the streets to protest this high-handedness,” Oladele said. ‘If it happens to Nigerian today it could happen to another African tomorrow. When there’s a protest today it’s a pent-up reaction.’’

Nigeria will demand that its experts be allowed take part in Elebechi’s autopsy, Oladele said.

China is investigating the death of a foreigner in police custody “according to the law,” Guangzhou’s Public Security Bureau said yesterday, according to a statement on its website. A man “lost consciousness suddenly” and died after being taken to a police station following a dispute with a motorcycle owner, according to the statement.

“All should abide by the law of China, no one should harm public interests or damage public order,” the statement said.

— With assistance by Nick Wadhams

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