On Tuesday, a farmer who killed his village chief with a nail gun was executed by lethal injection. Earlier this year, the man’s case sparked a massive public outcry with many feeling that the crime was the result of a pathological abuse of power. Party tabloid the Global Times on the other hand described the ending to the case as “a triumph for rule of law.”
On May 7, 2013, Jia Jinglong, was forcibly evicted from his house. Located in a village north of Shijiazhuang in Hebei province, the property was torn down to help make way for a new development. Jia initially refused compensation and made it quite clear he was not going to “go quietly.” As a result he was removed from the property and beaten by local officials.
The ordeal erupted just two weeks before Jia’s wedding day. Sticking to his principles he refused a flat allocated to him by the government, with no home to live in, his fiancée proceeded to call off the wedding, said his sister, Jia Jingyuan.
“An ordinary farmer suddenly became a person without property and with no hope after the demolition,” one of Jia’s lawyers explained. Thrown into depression, Jia began to plot his revenge.
The recipient of the farmer’s wrath two years later was village chief He Jianhua who had directed the demolition. Jia’s outrage was expressed in the form of a weaponized nail gun. He fired one single nail into the back of the official’s head, killing him almost instantly.
In November last year, the 30-year-old was found guilty of his self-confessed crime and was sentenced to death. In May, the decision by the court in Hebei province was upheld by an appeals court. Finally, in August, the Supreme People’s Court of China approved the decision to execute Jia. On Monday, Jia was granted permission to see his family for the last time before receiving the lethal injection.
The case of Jia Jinglong has brought about much disagreement among legal scholars, state media and the general public. It is representative of a section of the Chinese population that passionately long and advocate for equal protection of their properties. Land seizures are common in China, a by-product of breakneck development and land sales to create revenue. Local governments often resort to strong arm tactics along with compensation. “It was not only done to the Jia family. It’s like this with some families in the village now,” another villager testified.
In an open letter published on Sunday addressed to Zhou Qiang the Chief Justice and President of China’s Supreme Court, a handful of legal scholars and legal professionals called for delaying the execution. The letter argued that Jia was the victim of a forced demolition that violated housing regulations, and that he had been subject to unlawful intimidation, reported South China Morning Post. However this plea fell on deaf ears.
Many disagreed with the Supreme Court ruling, over 200 mainland citizens signed a petition started on WeChat requesting that the death penalty be commuted. The petition reasons that Jia confessed to his crime, was a victim at the hand of local officials and hadn’t harmed any innocent people while committing the crime.
The state-owned Global Times, offered an alternative perspective on the events. “The Supreme Court has kept its principles in the face of opposing public views,” an editorial published yesterday read. “Some lawyers misled public opinion by not revealing the true picture of the case and did not have a precise understanding of the law.”
The editorial went on to reassure readers that the legal system will not be led by the internet or turned into a “moral court” where public opinion has the final say. They concluded by stating that the “case was handled flawlessly under the law” and that the public should respect the law after voicing their own opinions.
So what were these opinions? One Weibo user commented that Jia was, “A good man, a real man,” another suggested that “he should be named as a martyr.”
— Yaxue Cao (@YaxueCao) November 15, 2016
Unfortunately for Jia Jinglong, none of this was enough to prevent him from being added to the unreleased number of prisoners that China executes each year. Given the fact the government currently holds a policy of “Kill Fewer, Kill Carefully,” describing the outcome as a triumph seems… slightly paradoxical?
By Seamus Gibson
[Images via Sina / Ifeng]