Public support for Chinese farmer who killed local leader with nail gun | News | DW | 26.10.2016
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Public support for Chinese farmer who killed local leader with nail gun

The man was offered a small apartment and bit of money to move and make way for a development project. He resented the "take it or leave it" ultimatum, and shot dead a politician in the area.

China - Kriminalfall Jia Jinglong (picture-alliance/AP Photo/N. Merchant)

Many have complained of inadequate compensation for lost homes amid China's push for real estate development

A Chinese man sentenced to death for fatally shooting a local political leader with a nail gun could be spared after receiving an outpouring of public support.

Two years ago, farmer Jia Jinglong modified a nail gun and killed the official just outside the northern city of Shijiazhuang after he was ordered to abandon his village home to make way for a new development project.

Local officials had offered him an apartment in a newly built high-rise nearby, and a small amount of money, but Jia deemed the compensation inadequate and turned it down.

China - Unterstützung für Jia Jinglong - Schwester Jia Jingyuan (picture-alliance/AP Photo/N. Merchant)

Jia Jinglong's sister, Jia Jingyuan, shows video footage of her house in Beigaoying village being demolished

China's highest court has upheld Jia's conviction and the death sentence, but his case has sparked an outcry from ordinary Chinese who share his sense of helplessness in the face of government bureaucracy, which is sometimes tainted by corruption.

Two state-run newspapers have even come to Jia's defense, calling for his life to be spared.

His sister, Jia Jingyuan, said the outpouring of support for her brother shows that his plight has resonated with ordinary citizens.

"Because my brother is part of this society's underclass, he represents the lives of many ordinary people," she said.

"What he has experienced is what many are going through or will be going through," she said. "There is a lot of injustice in society, and people's basic rights haven't been upheld."

Human rights vs. rule of law

For some, Jia's case illustrates the growing chasm between the Communist Party's claims that it guarantees the protection of basic rights under the rule of law and the everyday reality in which land seizures are commonplace and corruption troubles many.

The "China Daily" addressed the issue in very direct terms this week.

"As in many similar cases, Jia used to be an ordinary citizen concerned primarily about living a normal life," the newspaper said. "Like others who ended up desperate, vengeful and hurting themselves and others to have their injustices noticed, Jia would probably not have acted as he did if his loss had been properly taken care of."

Another state-run newspaper, The "Global Times," published an article quoting Chinese legal experts "demanding a halt to the execution." And commentators on Chinese social media called for his case to receive a further review.

China is believed to execute more people every year than any other nation, although the exact numbers aren't known because they are classified as state secrets.

Maya Wang, a researcher on China for the Human Rights Watch organization, said the authoritarian regime now faces a rare public test.

"On the one hand, if it doesn't approve the death penalty, it would seem to be soft on a case in which an ordinary citizen has killed an official," Wang said. "On the other hand, if it approves the death penalty, it will heighten the sense of injustice that the public already feels against the criminal justice system."

bik/gsw (AP, AFP)

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