The recent sentencing of a Chinese villager to death for the murder of a government official has sparked outrage and strong opposition throughout the country.
Jia Jinglong, a 30-year-old native of North Gaoying Village in Shijiazhuang, killed village chief He Jianhua with a modified nail gun last February in retaliation for demolishing his home and destroying his relationship two years earlier. The Supreme People’s Court approved the death penalty Aug. 31 and delivered the ruling to Jia’s lawyer just last week. Jia’s execution is imminent, reports the Global Times.
Jia is supposed to be executed Tuesday.
The Chinese public is riled up over the expedited nature of Jia’s impending execution. Many people also feel that Jia’s response, while illegal, was reasonable and justified.
Jia’s house was demolished during a 2013 village reconstruction campaign set in motion by He. The demolition of his home, which he was renovating in preparation for his wedding, took place 18 days before the ceremony. As a home is considered a prerequisite for marriage in China, Jia lost his bride-to-be as well, revealed the Hong Kong Free Press.
The demolition was reportedly extremely unorthodox. When the crews came to tear down his home, Jia stood on the second floor of his home and vowed to defend it. His father was then kidnapped, his cousins were beaten, and, lastly, he was beaten.
In the aftermath, Jia wrote letters to the Chang’an District Procuratorate and the Office of Letters and Appeals. He also tried to discuss compensation with the village chief. None of these methods worked.
Jia decided to use violence to get revenge for all that he had lost. After exacting revenge, Jia surrendered to authorities.
That Jia is to be executed within days of sentencing has shocked many in China given the country’s new interest in “killing fewer, killing cautiously,” which aims to protect those who have been wrongly convicted.
“Many scholars have identified this short period as problematic if China were to come into compliance with international law on the death penalty,” Amnesty International research William Nee told HKFP.
Additionally, as land seizures and forced evictions are common in China, there are many people who can relate to Jia’s story. The story of an average citizen seeking revenge against a lower-level official out of desperation has garnered Jia a lot of sympathy online. Many people see the murder as “justified” or an understandable “crime of passion.”
“It is obvious that the village committee did not have the authority to demolish Jia’s house by force. His sentencing should take into account the fact that Jia was enraged by the demolition, which was led by the village chief,” Si Weijiang, a Chinese lawyer, told reporters.
“Any ordinary person could resort to the same means as Jia when facing unfair treatment,” Peking University law professor Zhang Qianfan told the Global Times.
“Jia was trying to get justice in his own way by shooting the village chief, as he believed that he was unfairly treated,” Liu Hong, a professor at East China University of Political Science and Law, explained to the China Daily.
Jia’s sister filed a petition signed by hundreds of people with the top court Monday calling for a suspension on her brother’s execution. “There is hope that the verdict will be changed,” she said.
In 2015, a Chinese court commuted the death sentence of a woman who killed her abusive husband in response to strong public opposition. As land disputes regularly lead to social unrest in China, there is a chance that Jia’s sentence will be commuted.
At the moment, though, authorities hold that Jia committed an “extremely cruel” murder in response to a development project that was carried out properly. Furthermore, he murdered a government official. When the death sentence was first handed down, the court said the ruling was appropriate and accurate. Offering a reprieve to someone convicted of killing a government official could send a message to the many others who feel they have been wronged by the state that violent revenge is reasonable.
Given the controversial nature of the case, many in China are calling for transparency.
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