2013: Xia Junfeng, chengguan slayer

1 comment September 25th, 2013 Headsman

China has announced the execution this day of “homicide criminal” Xia Junfeng, a kebab vendor from Shenyang.

This case has been in the public eye for several years, and the predominant sentiment has been sympathetic towards the condemned man.

Xia and his wife Zhang Jing were part of China’s vast population of working urban poor, Xia having found his way into job insecurity by virtue of a layoff from the state electricity company. In the entrepreneurial spirit of the age, Xia started up an unlicensed business selling sausages and the like.

These denizens of the gray economy are, as a class, afflicted by the attentions of the City Urban Administrative and Law Enforcement Bureau, better known as the chengguan. Their benign job description entails administering municipal regulations, but this much-loathed force’s relationship to everyday citizens is perhaps best illustrated by the word chengguan‘s status as a shorthand neologism for bullying and abuse. Too many people know this goon squad firsthand, and too many stories of their worst excesses have circulated. Just this past July, the chengguan made headlines by killing a watermelon vendor.

“Chengguan abuses are an open scandal in China,” said Human Rights Watch’s China director. “The chengguan’s ability to flout China’s laws and inflict harm on members of the public is a recipe for greater public resentment and more violent confrontations.”

In the violent confrontation at issue in today’s execution, the chengguan chengguanned Xia Junfeng in May 2009. Xia fought back with his meat-carving knife, and slew two of his tormenters.

Death penalty cases redolent of the social stratification and institutional corruption that ordinary Chinese people experience have proven to be lightning rods in recent years.

Xia Junfeng’s turned, legally, on his claim that he killed protecting himself from the chengguan‘s beating.*

“Extralegal violence, thus employed to compensate for inadequate regulation and an absence of authority and legal deterrence, is no longer individual behavior. Such violence exists everywhere with the permission of the authorities. It is needed because of an overriding concern for “city image” and “urban management.” Finally, when extralegal violence is not monitored by the people and the media, and not punished by the law, it is only natural for Chengguan members to feel justified. Using violence with impunity enables the Chengguans to see violence psychologically as their “privilege,” a sign of status and pride. Since the legal and political status of Chengguan is unclear, it is only natural for its members to seek personal gain, vent their anger, and prey on the citizens they were intended to protect.”

-from the closing argument of Xia’s defense attorney

This allegation didn’t fly in court, where brother chengguan denied that they’d been abusing the shishkebaber, but it’s won in a rout when it comes to the court of public opinion. “His life and death are more than just a legal matter, but a bellwether of the era, with the tsunami-like public opinion firmly on the side of Xia Junfeng,” wrote author Yi Chen today.

Particularly galling for many is the disparity in treatment between Xia Junfeng and the likes of Gu Kailai, the latter a powerful business and political figure who was able to avoid execution despite being convicted of a scandalous contract murder. And Chengguan themselves never seem to be at risk of harsh punishment for any misbehavior; had Xia Junfeng been the one to leave that confrontation in a body bag, there certainly wouldn’t have been a death penalty case.


Anonymous cartoon circulated on Weibo criticizing Xia Junfeng’s condemnation. (Via) The drawing of the boy in the background was done by Xia’s son, whose art school fees were earned by his father’s roadside business.

Chinese speakers might want to peruse the Weibo feed of Xia’s widow.

* Several years ago, self-defense helped a Beijing migrat worker avoid execution for killing a chengguan who attempted to confiscate his bicycle cart.

Also on this date

Entry Filed under: 21st Century,Businessmen,Capital Punishment,China,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,Execution,History,Lethal Injection,Murder,Ripped from the Headlines

Tags: , , , , , , ,

2003: Liu Yong, for corruption

2 comments December 22nd, 2008 Headsman

On this date in 2003, Liu Yong’s situation took a very abrupt turn for the worse.

The wealthy Communist Party member and Shenyang city legislator had been sentenced to death 20 months before in a corruption case for ordering the murder of a tobacco vendor as part of a mafioso racket of graft, extortion, black marketeering, and kindred mayhem.

When that sentence was reduced on retrial on a showing that Liu’s confession was extracted by torture, public outcry at the appearance of a well-connected insider getting off scot-free led the Supreme Court to take the unprecedented step of yet again re-trying a criminal case itself.

“According to China’s legal system, a criminal case can usually be tried only twice,” as China Daily lightly put it.

Amnesty International is less measured, and alleges that the irregular Supreme Court hearing was ordered by political insiders to buttress the credibility of the country’s anti-corruption drive — and to avoid setting any precedent that evidence of torture should mitigate criminal sentencing. (China certainly found defenders for the trial (the link is to an ugly layout of raw HTML).)

The high court handed down its sentence this very day, after which Liu was immediately hailed to one of China’s mobile execution vans, given a lethal injection, and cremated.

Also on this date

Entry Filed under: 21st Century,Capital Punishment,China,Crime,Death Penalty,Execution,Infamous,Lethal Injection,Milestones,Murder,Notable Jurisprudence,Organized Crime,Political Expedience,Politicians,Scandal,Torture,Wrongful Executions

Tags: , , , , ,


Calendar

April 2014
M T W T F S S
« Mar    
 123456
78910111213
14151617181920
21222324252627
282930  

Archives

Categories




Recently Commented

Accolades