Chinese demand execution of a student, accuse state TV of siding murderers
April 5, 2011Jing Gao14 Commentscapital punishment, car accidents, CCTV, CHINA CENTRAL TELEVISION, Chinese law, Criminal law, death penalty, execution, hit-and-run, human flesh search engine, injustice, Li Gang, murder, peasants, privilege, psychologist, public official, public opinion, publicity, social injustice, trial, Yao Jiaxin, Zhang Miao
Yao Jiaxin, a 21-year-old student at the Xi’an Conservatory of Music in northwest China’s Shaanxi Province, knocked down a peasant woman named Zhang Miao while driving at around 11 p.m. on October 20, 2010.
Zhang sustained only slight injuries from the traffic accident, including a fracture of her left leg. However, when Yao got out of his car and saw Zhang jotting down his license plate number, he stabbed Zhang eight times to death with the knife he brought with him, and struck two other passers-by while fleeing the scene. He later admitted to killing the victim simply because he feared “Peasants would be pestering.”
Zhang Miao’s husband, Wang Hui, holds their 2-year-old son in arms
In China, where death penalty is meted out much more often than any other country in the world and the idea of “Repay a life for a life” is so deeply entrenched, few people expected Yao to escape capital punishment, especially when this is clearly a murder out of malice rather than a manslaughter. However, on the News Channel of China Central Television (CCTV), the state broadcaster in China often viewed as the mouthpiece of the central government, Yao wept in an exclusive interview for his tragic fall from a genius pianist to a perpetrator and implored for mercy and forgiveness. A Chinese criminal psychologist also rationalized Yao’s felony on the state television, which sparked a new public furor over the broadcaster’s questionable stance.
On TV, Yao was choked with tears and remorse. He said he used to be proud of his slender fingers that are desirable for playing the piano. He was the best student in his class and was awarded merit-based fellowship. However, he always thought his life “is without any value or meaning” and “often felt suppressed since junior high school.” He considered committing suicide from time to time. He said his depression stems from playing the piano as his profession and his demanding parents who sometimes locked him up when he resisted.
Since he turned himself in to the police the next day, he had spent much time reexamining himself, “I know they (the victim Zhang’s parents) hate me very much,” he sobbed, “But I hope if I come out (of the prison), if I am given a chance to survive and leave here, I can keep working hard. If I make money, I will feed them, no matter how they will treat me or scold me. I will atone for my sin and provide for them in place of Zhang. I hope they can forgive me and give me a second chance.”
Li Meijin, a professor of criminal psychology at Chinese People’s Public Security University, said in CCTV’s news program that when Yao was stabbing Zhang, he was simply repeating keystrokes mechanically as a result of being forced by his parents to play the piano, that Yao’s offense is a crime of passion.
“In psychology, there is a term called compulsive behavior,” said Li, “When he stabbed his knife into the girl, I think the move is exactly the same move as what he made when he felt unfair and painful, unhappy with the reality, but was forced to sit in front of the piano.”
Li said Yao was provoked by the sight of a woman hit by him jotting down his license plate number and overcome with sudden strong impulse. At that moment, Yao’s stabbing him was similar to thumping the piano.
Astounded by Li’s comments, the public, who have never heard of the concept of crime of passion in any previous case, ridiculed the expert, “So if a computer programmer kills a person, he is simply compulsively repeating his keystrokes; if a barber kills a person, he is simply compulsively repeating his hair-cutting gestures. Based on this theory, any murder is a crime of passion. (from NetEast blog)” “The expert’s analysis of Yao’s psychology is so inconsistent with his own confession that he did it because ‘peasants will be pestering.’ (from rednet)” Some even pointed out the fact that Yao, a student, brought a knife that long (See picture below) with him wherever he went indicates he is very dangerous and dark inside and far from temporarily insane. (from Baidu forum)
However, CCTV, as a state broadcaster, did not provide adequate coverage to the victim’s family or give outlets for the opposing views. It is not CCTV’s first time to appear sympathetic with murderers either. Last year, a son of a public official named Li Gang killed a college student in a hit-and-run accident and allegedly said to the security who tried to stop him, “Sue me if you dare! My father is Li Gang!” CCTV, like this time, gave a private interview to Li Gang and his son, where the father apologized with tears in his eyes and promised to compensate the surviving girl. “Law will determine justice. I won’t shield my own son from punishment”, he said. His son, for the first time, wept in the interview. Many netizens called this a scripted show to divert public attention.
Netizens mobilized human flesh search engine to find out the background of Yao. It is said that his father has a military title and enjoys benefits as a secondary division level veteran. The car he drove was a gift from his father, which is a luxury for most Chinese families.
Many netizens cannot help but ask, why CCTV speaks on behalf of afflicters rather than the afflicted? Is it because they belong to the privileged class? If Yao were a peasant’s son, and Li Gang were not an official, would their voices be heard?
In addition, many exceptions are made by the judiciary for Yao’s case. When Yao was on open trial on March 23, 400 students were invited to court. The court claimed that due to the publicity before trial, it is necessary to consult the public opinion and take it into account when passing verdict. So for the first time in recent years, the court polled the 400 students present for their take on the issue. It’s not surprising that the poll shows the majority in court are in favor of giving Yao a second chance, as most of the students come from Yao’s college.
However, Yahoo China conducted an online survey, whose results provide a stark contrast to the court’s version.
On the afternoon of March 25, more than 500 peasants from Gongzi and Beilei, two villages administered by Xi’an where Zhang Miao lived before marriage and had been living until death, collected signatures and signed a petition saying, “If the murderer is not killed, justice would not tolerate it!!!”
During the trial, Zhang’s family were weeping. Zhang’s husband, Wang Hui, questioned Yao, “Are peasants really pestering?…There is a child…” Wang Hui burst into tears and lost control of his emotion in court. Wang’s attorney said, “The child is only 2 years old. When the boy saw the picture of his mother, he said it is an aunt. He asked where his mother has gone. A 2-year-old was bereft of the greatest maternal love.”
“As long as Yao can be sentenced to death, we agree not to take a penny as damages,” Wang’s attorney said.