Sunday, 29 September 2013

An Unjust End

Qiang Qiang's painting of him and his dad
Many in China are feeling sorrow and anger for Zhang Jing, the 39-year-old widow of Xia Junfeng, who was executed this week for killing two chengguan or urban administrative and law enforcement bureau.

The chengguan are meant to ensure municipal bylaws are followed, mostly cracking down on street vendors. However the chengguan do not seem properly trained, nor do they have much education. In short, they are basically thugs working for the city.

Then there is Xia, who lost his job in a government-run factory and resorted to grilling kebabs and sausages on the street in Shenyang, Liaoning province in northeastern China, and by the way is pianist Lang Lang's hometown.

Xia was just trying to make a living for him and his young family -- though unlicensed -- when two chengguan approached him 2009 and beat him up. They then took him to an interrogation room where he stabbed them with a small knife, killing both.

In court Xia claimed he was provoked by the chengguan and killed them in self defense. However he was convicted in 2009 and it was not until earlier this week the death sentence was upheld, shocking everyone despite a very public campaign to at least give him a lesser sentence.

Xia Junfeng testifying in court for killing two chengguan
He and his wife had hoped for a last minute reprieve, but in the end Zhang only had half an hour to see her husband for the last time, and they weren't even allowed to take a picture.

Xia was executed by lethal injection and then soon after Zhang was given a bag containing her husband's ashes.

Their son is now 13 and is artistic, creating a number of paintings that visually describe his state of mind, which has resulted in even more sympathy for the family. Many have come to buy the works, and even a hardcover collection of his art has been sold out.

Many sympathizers have bought Qiang Qiang's paintings
Influential Taiwanese singer, actress and writer Annie Yi has adopted the boy Qiang Qiang as her godson and has pledged to financially support his education. She is an avid microblogger who has some 14 million followers in Sina Weibo.

Many are comparing Xia's case with that of Gu Kailai, Bo Xilai's wife, who was convicted of killing Briton Neil Heywood. She pleaded guilty to pre-meditated murder and got a suspended death sentence, so why should Xia be put to death?

The family in happier times
Legal experts have commented on the case saying the prosecution's arguments had many holes, including contradictory statements and lack of witnesses.

Wang Jianxun, a professor at the Chinese University of Political Science and Law, said the verdict amounted to "legal regression".

"The legal system clearly has taken the side of the urban management," Wang said. "This is an unjust verdict."

Some think Xia's case may spark China's Arab Spring, but unfortunately there isn't enough momentum to channel the frustration to the next level. Sadly this is yet another unjust case that has been dealt with and left by the wayside.

We hope Zhang and her son will find the strength to move on and rebuild their lives in the memory of Xia.

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