The Death of Xia Junfeng

Pictures by Qiangqiang, 11 years old, son of Xia Junfeng.

Pictures by Qiangqiang, 13 years old, son of Xia Junfeng.

Xia Junfeng was a street vendor in Shenyang City in north eastern China. He was dead today.  Xia was sentenced to death penalty two and half years ago for killing two urban management officials.

In an interview with Lawyer Chen Youxi, Xia’s defense lawyer, Chen said (in Chinese),

We have sufficient fact and concrete evidence to prove that this case is killing people due to self-defense.  …  There are two types of evidence. First, the evidence used to sentence Xi to death penalty if defective, which means that to prove his intentional killing is not possible. Second, the evidence that we obtained can prove that he is self-defending. …

The incident happened due to urban management officials’ violent law enforcement, there are at least six on-site witnesses who can prove this. The place where the killings happened could also prove that Xia did not intentionally kill people. It happened during the period that he was taken and beatings and resistance occurred. The difference of the heights between the two parties can prove whether Xia would attack on his initiative. He killed two people who are stronger and taller than him in 8 minutes with his fruit knife.  There is no chasing around.  From this perspective, it could be deducted that the two men taller than 180cm were closely surrounding Xia who is 165cm in height, and the possibility that Xia was beaten could not be excluded.  … The court of first instance and the appealing court all did not pay sufficient attention to the details of this case.

There are also defects with due process of the first instance trial and the appealing trial. For instance, the police did not take evidence objectively. The evidence provided by the six witnesses for the defense lawyer were not accepted; while the urban management official Cao Yang was not on the in the car, but the other four officials all said he was in the car, and their words were used as evidence for the trial; audience were also called to give oral evidence and the evidence was written into the judgment, this is serious violation of the law.

The following is part of another defense Lawyer Teng Biao’s final statement in the second trial of Xia Junfeng (translated by China Change):

In this system of vague legal status and inadequate oversight, Chengguan’s (urban management official) violent habit becomes a necessity, and a part of the system. Extralegal violence, thus employed to compensate for inadequate regulation and an absence of authority and legal deterrence, is no longer individual behavior.

… …

In this case, the Chenguan system has already destroyed two families; do we have to destroy a third one? We have lost Shen Kai and Zhang Xudong. Several dozen citizens have been beaten to death by Chengguans. We have already paid a heavy price for the brutal Chengguan system, and now, do we have to sacrifice justice in order to endorse an ill-conceived system and the brutality committed by its members? Must we make the judiciary an avenging hand that puts Xia Junfeng, a husband and father of a nine-year-old, to death?

… …

In the worldwide trend against the death penalty, most countries have abolished it by law or in practice, and in the countries where it is still in use, it is reserved for the most egregiously violent crimes. It’s bad enough that we have been applying the death penalty in economic or non-violent criminal cases, are we now going to apply it in cases of excessive self-defense or justifiable self-defense as well? Cao Haixin was executed for self-defense, and the tragedy is a shame in the judicial history in Henan. Today, in the 21st century, are we going to repeat the same tragedy in Liaoning?

The death of two citizens is a tragedy for our society, but if Xia Junfeng were to be sentenced to death, it would be an obvious and gargantuan mistake, a tragedy unbearable and unacceptable to society that will cast a shadow on the Chinese judiciary for a long time to come. If Xia Junfeng were to be sentenced to death, many more innocent, helpless vendors will die at the hands of Chengguans. If one were to be sentenced to death for self-defense, he or she would be inclined to kill excessively and kill many more without qualms, because one can only die once. If one were to be sentenced to death for self-defense, there would be no boundaries between guilt and innocence, good and bad, life and death; and the power of the rule of law, already pathetically weak in our society, would be destroyed altogether by evil, chaos and brutality.

Many Chinese lawyers have been continuously voiced their opinion that Xia shall not be sentenced to death penalty. However, early this morning about 6am, Xia’s wife was informed that Xia would be executed.  Xia’s family visited him for half an hour, and a few hours later, he was executed with death penalty.

Read more here about Chinese netizens’ anger about the execution of Xia Junfeng. 

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