PLA soldiers' desertion stirs online speculation

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 12 November, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 12 November, 2011, 12:00am


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The mainland internet is abuzz with theories explaining this week's desertion of four People's Liberation Army (PLA) soldiers from a military base in Jilin province.

According to the latest theory, the three teenagers involved were helping their 23-year-old squad leader defend his house, which is facing demolition.

Some internet users who claimed they had served in the army listed five possible reasons for the desertion of 23-year-old Yang Fan , a non-commissioned officer, and three squad members - Lin Penghan, Li Xinxin and Zhang Xinyan, all aged 18 or 19.

They took an automatic rifle and about 800 bullets on Wednesday. The four were cornered by military police on a highway near Yingkou, Liaoning, just 100 kilometres from Yang's hometown in Xinbin county, Fushun.

Internet users said they believed something important had happened at his home that had made him angry and prompted his irrational decision 'to do something'.

An internet user said Yang's home village of Hongsheng, in the town of Liya, had seen forced demolitions since last year. With Yang's house one of the targets, he had asked his 'three little brothers' to join him.

According to the website of the Fushun municipal government, the local government has requisitioned nearly 81 hectares of farmland and demolished 22 homes in Xinbin county to make way for the construction of two highways since 2009.

It is unclear whether Yang's home is among those affected.

The authorities have stayed mum about the reason for the desertions. The hardship of military life and abuse by senior officers are two common reasons why new soldiers run away.

However, internets users said the four had served in the army for more than a year, which meant they should have adapted to military life.

The four planned the theft of the rifle and ammunition well, but not their escape, an internet user who claimed to be a retired soldier said. Yang took his mobile phone with him, allowing the authorities to trace them within hours.

'The four were so young and inexperienced that they took a taxi on their way home to Liaoning, bearing a Jilin plate,' he said. 'All that poor planning provided important clues for police to trace them and round them up.' Three of the deserters were shot dead in the taxi on the Yingkou highway, while the fourth was injured. According to a Hong Kong-based human rights group, Yang was the sole survivor.