What the mainland media say, Sunday Morning Post, August 19, 2012

Questions asked over why it took police so long to zero in on Zhou Kehua, and what made him cold-blooded

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 19 August, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 19 August, 2012, 10:47am

The gunning down of Zhou Kehua by Chongqing police on Tuesday capped an eight-year manhunt for one of the most wanted men on the mainland, but the media frenzy shows no sign of abating.

Reports have offered details of the police operations leading to Zhou's death, his knack for evading authorities for so long and how the once humble Chongqing farmer became a social outcast and then a "heartless killer".

However, some media outlets have offended readers with reports targeting Zhou's ageing mother, seen by some as an invasion of privacy.

The Shaanxi -based Huashang Daily on Wednesday ran a photo of his mother, Chen Shizhen , sitting in a chair with her face covered by a fan. "Upon learning her son's death, she was dazed for at least 20 seconds with her hands shaking," the paper reported.

A commentary published by voc.com.cn on Thursday said the media had crossed a line, as Zhou's mother did not deserve such scrutiny even if she were the mother of a criminal.

"As a mother who lost a son, she will feel the same way as any other mother in the world would feel," the commentary said. "We can't rub salt in her wounds because we hate Zhou Kehua."

Zhou, 42, was shot dead by two officers in a mountainous district on the outskirts of Chongqing. He was accused of staging armed robberies across Hunan , Jiangsu and Chongqing that resulted in the deaths of 10 people.

A massive manhunt was launched after Zhou was believed to have killed two and critically injured another in an attack outside a Bank of China branch in Chongqing's Shapingba district on August 10.

China Central Television reported on Tuesday that police intercepted a mobile text message between Zhou and his girlfriend in which he discussed his plan before the attack.

Citing Changsha police, rednet.cn a government news portal in Hunan, reported on Wednesday that Zhou was a mercenary in Myanmar in 2004, which could answer queries over his familiarity with guns.

The Chinese-language edition of the Global Times, which is affiliated with the party mouthpiece People's Daily, on Wednesday hailed the country's law enforcement network.

"What happened in Chongqing has once again proved that the public can trust the system of law and order in this country," the paper said.

But the online edition of Economic Daily asked why police only identified Zhou earlier this year despite linking him to eight previous killings. Police zeroed in on Zhou in January this year after he robbed a man of 200,000 yuan (HK$243,950) and killed him in Nanjing . "[The police should ask themselves] what they should reflect upon as he was allowed to commit so many crimes in such an unbridled way," it said.

The Economic Daily also pointed to Zeng Kaigui, who remains on the run after being named responsible for a killing in Menghai county in Yunnan province in October in 1995. Police initially mistook Zhou for Zeng in January this year.

The Beijing News called for more research into how an average person could become so cold-blooded.

The paper had earlier reported on interviews with Zhou's neighbours in his hometown of Jingkou in Chongqing's Shapingba district. They said Zhou was from a poor family and was a docile person.

He was sentenced to two years in a labour camp in Hubei in 1993 after he was found in possession of a hunting gun that he stole in 1991. He was also jailed for three years by Kunming railway police for illegally owning a gun in 2005. He worked in several menial jobs before embarking on a string of armed robberies.

The Oriental Morning Post responded to public discussion over possible injustices Zhou may have faced earlier in life, which might have led to his antisocial behaviour, arguing he was never a victim nor should he be pardoned for his crimes. "Nobody should think they can resort to anti-social tactics to get the justice they want," it said. "Otherwise such a mentality could lead to ubiquitous hostility in our society."

However, the paper said Zhou's death should prompt authorities to take a good look at the effectiveness of correctional and re-employment services for former inmates.