1817: Three criminals in Rome, as witnessed by Lord Byron 1894: Emile Henry, because there are no innocent bourgeois

2001: Zhang Jun and his gang

May 20th, 2009 Headsman

On this date in 2001, an infamous crime lord and 13 members of his gang were put to death in two Hunan Province cities.

Suave serial bank robber Zhang Jun had a reported 28 deaths on his conscience, including such underworld classics as forcing a lover to execute someone in order to prove her loyalty, in a years-long spree of robbery and mayhem. He was a major catch early in China’s execution-rich “strike hard” crime crackdown.

Despite-slash-because of the body trail, the cool Zhang — who appeared in court dressed modishly and flaunting such indifference to death that he disdained to defend himself — attracted a strain of fandom for his “gangland chic”.

He’s kind of like the gangsters in the movies, really likable.

The authorities, and his many victims, liked him less.


A still shot from the broadcast of Zhang Jun’s trial.

According to Courts and Criminal Justice in Contemporary China, the gang’s trial had the distinction of being the first ever broadcast live in China.

Zhang Jun’s trial was notable for its ripples in other media as well. The Committee to Protect Journalists reported that several writers and editors were demoted or fired after publishing a story in Nanfang Zhoumo (Southern Weekend) exploring the gang’s roots in poverty and inequality … a take deemed inimical to the dialectical historical march of the Peoples’ Republic. (See here for some of the more approved commentary angles.)

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 21st Century,Capital Punishment,China,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,Execution,Infamous,Mass Executions,Milestones,Murder,Organized Crime,Shot,Theft

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