Xia Junfeng, a killer that the nation has pity for
From China Youth Daily
Xia Junfeng and his wife have been poor all their life. Xia was laid off from a state-owned electric machinery factory and did several temporary jobs. His wife Zhang Jing worked as a cleaning lady at a hotel and a baker at a kindergarten. They have pinned their hope on their only son. However, their income was barely enough for the family to scrape by.
Then they came up with the idea of hawking in the street. “It is close to home, low-cost, and has high profit margin. We have been working for others all our life. We can eventually start our own business,” Zhang Jing thought. Vending sausages and kabobs from a cart on the street finally earned them a decent amount of money and realized their biggest dream – sending their 9-year-old son to a painting class. Life seemed to be on the upturn, until the day they met two chengguan, or urban management enforcers.
Xia Junfeng, his wife Zhang Jing, and their only son.
Because of a conflict with the urban management forces, whose jobs in China is to regulate street vendors and outlaw those without a license or permit, Xia Junfeng stabbed two of them to death.
It took place in May 2009 in Shenyang, capital city of northeast Liaoning province. In November that year, Shenyang Intermediate Court sentenced Xia to death on conviction of first-degree murder. Besides, the court ordered Yao to pay about 659,000 yuan (100,000 U.S. dollars) in compensation to the two victims’ families.
The intesection where the conflict began. Even today, it is still street vendors’ favorite location.
Later, Xia’s family appealed against the conviction to Liaoning Provincial Higher People’s Court. On May 9, 2011, the court upheld the original verdict.
But Xia’s wife, Zhang Jing, insisted that Xia was acting in self-defense after he was severely beaten by the two chengguan.
“I was there at the scene. Many more people saw Xia Junfeng beaten on the spot. We have found six eyewitnesses to prove Xia was beaten. All these witnesses are willing to testify, but they were not allowed to appear in court,” Zhang Jing said.
After the judge read the verdict, Xia Junfeng yelled in court, “I can’t accept it. They lied.”
Whether Xia Junfeng was beaten by chengguan is a decisive criterion for giving a precise definition of his act and measurement of penalty. However, when the fellow chengguan officers denied having beaten Xia Junfeng and Zhang Jing testified for her husband, the judge chose to believe the former and discredit the latter.
Teng Biao, a well-known human rights activist and attorney for Xia Junfeng, said that the court’s conviction against Xia is erroneous. He did not know the two victims or hold any grudge against them ahead of time. A dozens of chengguan officers, including the two victims, carried out their jobs thuggishly, which resulted in the tragedy. The killing should never be a first degree murder, as it was not premeditated.
All of the six witnesses said, according to Teng Biao, that Chengguan seized (Xia Junfeng), grabbed away the gas cylinder, and threw all bamboo sticks and sausages on the ground. Xia’s wife tried to stop them, but in vain. A dozen chengguan officers surrounded Xia and began to beat him. He beseeched for mercy, but they did not relent. Xia was knocked down to the ground and could not stand up. One of Xia’s shoes was kicked off by the mob of chengguan and left at the scene, which was used as evidence in court.
Xia Junfeng’s shoe left at the scene.
Even after Xia Junfeng was forcibly detained in chengguan office, Shen Kai and Zhang Xudong, the two victims, went on to beat Xia. Xia sustained severe injuries, including multiple on his body and a fractured finger. His wife kept diagnosis from the local hospital.
Zheng Yuanjie, a household name in China known as the author of several best-selling children’s books and periodicals, conducted an online poll to find out people’s attitude as to what sentence should be passed to Xia. Out of 1,978 who took the poll, only 13% chose either death penalty or suspended death penalty.
It is premature and unfair to jump to the conclusion that Xia was not guilty. However, Chengguan in China are notorious for often brutally and inhumanely treating street vendors and tramps, sometimes by beating them and other times by destroying their businesses, and driving them away.
Xia Junfeng’s case highlighted the confrontation, sometimes bloody, between the powerful and the powerless. More important, the powerful in Xia’s case used to be powerless. One victim, Shen Kai, born in 1975, joined the army at the age of 16. He was the only child in his family. The other, Zhang Xudong lived with his parents, his sick elder brother, his wife and daughter, about the same age as Xia’s son, in a tiny apartment. The two were institutionalized by the city management forces, or the domineering officialdom in general, and became bullies riding roughshod over the grassroots they once were a part of.