There is an old Chinese saying “It’s not that there is no pay back, it just hasn’t come yet.” This perfectly describes the situation Qiu Riren found himself in last Monday when he was tried for a killing he was involved in 46 years ago.
Qiu, an 81-year-old farmer from Ruian, Zhejiang, went on trial for the alleged intentional killing of a doctor named Hong Yunke in 1967.
Southern Weekly published a feature about the case on its website on Thursday depicting the details of the murder and trial.
At the trial, Qiu frequently swung his arms, appearing to have trouble hearing the questions, the Southern Weekly reported. But when prosecutor asked him whether he killed Hong, Qiu said “Yes”.
According to the report, the “forgotten” murder took place in 1967, a year after the start of the Cultural Revolution, a ten-year-long period of social and political upheaval that paralysed China politically and economically.
Hong, the grandson of a landlord, was a barefoot doctor at the time and enjoyed a relatively good living in the area.
On December 12, 1967, on his way to gather medicinal herbs, Hong encountered a militia faction of which Qiu was a member. Qiu and his cohorts suspected Hong of being a spy for an opposing militia faction.
Despite a lack of evidence, the militia members, resentful of Hong’s wealthy background at a time when violent class struggles were encouraged, “unanimously agreed” to execute him.
Hong was reported to have pleaded with Qiu to spare his life, but Qiu refused. In the end, Qiu and two other militia members put a rope around Hong’s neck and pulled from opposite directions until Hong suffocated. They used this method to “save ammunition and to avoid revealing their location”.
After Qiu’s militia faction was detained by authorities two years after Hong’s death, Qui confessed to the killing and was in 1973 ordered to receive “education".
In 1986, the government reopened the case and issued a warrant letter. However, Qiu had left Ruian two years earlier.
Qiu was arrested 26 years later in 2012 when he returned to Ruian for the first time in 28 years.
The court has not yet pronounced a verdict after the trial last week.
Although the Cultural Revolution came to an end in 1976 after the death of Mao Zedong, officials have yet to announce a full frank reassessment of the turmoil and it remains a sensitive topic in China.