Chinese demand execution of a student, accuse state TV of siding murderers

April 5, 2011Jing Gao14 Comments, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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's family02

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.


Yao weeps on CCTV for his tragic fall from a genius pianist to a perpetrator and implored for mercy and forgiveness.

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.


Criminal psychologist Li Meijin said Yao's repeated stabbing is similar to habitually pressing piano keyboard

“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)


The long knife Yao used to stab Zhang eight times to death

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.

500 people, including 400 students were invited to the public trial of Yao's case.

Yao Jiaxin at the public trial on March 23.

However, Yahoo China conducted an online survey, whose results provide a stark contrast to the court’s version.


Screenshot of Yahoo China's online survey and result.

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!!!”


Peasants from Gongzi village and Beilei village hold a banner that reads "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.

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14 comments to “Chinese demand execution of a student, accuse state TV of siding murderers”

  1. [...] a killer? The China news blog Ministry of Tofu examines documents rising public anger over state-run media’s effort to humanize Yao Jiaxin, a student who stabbed a young mother to death after accidentally hitting her with his [...]

  2. Tom | April 6, 2011 | Permalink Reply

    I caught this on People's Daily about a week ago, and mentioned to my wife that it looked like this rich kid was going to get away with murdering a peasant, and now that really seems to be the case.
    How is it that China is so eager to arrest people like Liu Xiaobo, but are afraid of arresting murderers?

  3. [...] But statistics aside, does dying while traveling scare me? No. I mean, the tsunami was a total freak incident, and a major tragedy, but nothing one can worry about on a daily basis. I will tell you what does worry me. Getting seriously, suddenly hurt. If something happens and I can’t talk I wonder what will happen? Ambulances are pretty dismal here and sometimes people just panic if a foreigner is involved. I’m worried that someone could hit me with a car or scooter, panic, take off, and I would die bleeding on the side of the street. (Plus there have been some pretty sad tales of recent hit and runs, and hit, hit, hit and runs, and hit and stabs.) [...]

  4. Gaogou Li | April 9, 2011 | Permalink Reply

    There is no jury composed of common people with merit and grace in China

  5. Tom Eger | April 10, 2011 | Permalink Reply

    This is China, Communist party rules, in complicity with by their corruption created billionaires, cheap exports creating disemplyment worldwide made possible by miserable income of expendable peasant, which sent their sons to cities to work under subhuman conditions with salaries similar to the poorest developing countries.

    Khadafy is a saint compared with this regime!

  6. [...] “Chinese demand execution of a student, accuse state TV of siding murderers” ( [...]

  7. [...] the past few months, the cold-blooded murder of a young woman, Zhang Miao, by affluent music student Yao Jiaxin, has been the most heated topic [...]

  8. [...] the past few months, the cold-blooded murder of a young woman, Zhang Miao, by affluent music student Yao Jiaxin, has been the most heated topic [...]

  9. [...] a broad crackdown on human rights activists, artists, bloggers and defense attorneys; the trial of Yao Jiaxin, a moneyed princeling who murdered a pedestrian; and Japan’s concatenation of tragedy [...]

  10. Erik | June 7, 2011 | Permalink Reply

    Meanwhile in the US.. I remember one story of a rich kid killing an immigrant. He only got 5 years in jail.

    Then.. One of my relatives was murdered almost 3 years ago. His killer immediately confessed. We're still waiting for his trial.

    Lastly, I don't believe in the death penalty.

  11. [...] piano, and a “jury” was assembled that consisted almost entirely of his classmates. Public opinion though turned so strongly against the boy though, that he was sentenced to death. While it was a heinous crime, I do not believe that the [...]

  12. kladionice | October 3, 2011 | Permalink Reply

    whoah this blog is excellent i really like reading your posts. Stay up the great work! You know, lots of persons are searching round for this information, you could help them greatly.

  13. A bystander | February 27, 2012 | Permalink Reply

    Yao Jiaxin has been executed and justice is served.

  14. lorax | April 6, 2012 | Permalink Reply

    no one shall be killed
    a life sentence ought to be imposed plus with very hard labour
    but not death sentence
    the one who orders a death sentence ought to be killed too and does not deserve to suffer to exist/live.

    nobody ought to decide no ones death

    humanity should never allow that

    if somebody kills, they should not be killed, but sentenced for live to hard labour and in that way suffer, but to be extinquished, that is killed shis should not be allowed.

    we can not create monsters out of ourselves by killing others.

    the state should not exercise the power to kill one of their own products, the individual who killed another individual.

    Lauren Kant holder of 4 PhDs in criminal and comparative laws.

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