Outspoken Taiwanese singer, actress and writer Annie Yi said she had adopted a Shenyang hawker’s son as her godson and promised to financially support his future education, one day after the boy’s father was executed for killing two chengguan officers in a controversial case that drew wide public sympathy.
Yi, one of the most popular Taiwanese celebrities on China’s social networking websites, added she now considered herself the sister of the boy’s mother and called on members of the public to buy paintings from the 13-year old boy who has shown interest and considerable talent in the field.
“[I would] help Xia to nurture his painting talent … and appeal for more friends to buy [his] paintings, so Qiang Qiang [the boy’s nick name] could eventually stand on his own,” Yi said on her Sina Weibo microblog on Wednesday night.
The boy’s father, Xia Junfeng, was an unlicensed street vendor who was found guilty of murdering two city management officers with a knife during interrogation in 2009.
Many legal activists and internet users have expressed sympathy for the hawker before and after his execution on Wednesday arguing he was acting in self-defense and the murder verdict was unfair. City management officers, or chengguan as they are known in China, have frequently drawn the public’s ire for the bullying attitudes they use while carrying out their law enforcement duties, and which have led to a number of injuries and deaths in recent years.
Yi also posted on her blog over a dozen of Xia Jianqiang’s paintings. Along with them was a note supposedly signed by the boy and addressed to her that written “To mum Yi” and dated May of this year.
An avid microblogger followed by over 14 million users, Yi is known to be one of the most outspoken celebrity users of China’s social media networks. In January this year, she expressed support on her Sina Weibo microblog for the Guangzhou-based liberal publication Southern Weekly after one of its articles was censored by the government and she denounced the party paper Global Times for its nationalistic propaganda.
The posts were shared by tens of thousands of online users who echoed her appeals, prompting Sina Weibo authorities to quickly remove them from the site.
Responding to questions about government censorship of Yi’s remarks, a spokesman at State Council’s Taiwan Affairs Office said: “[Mainland China] welcomes all Taiwanese celebrities, but they should abide by Chinese laws.”