Chengguan are an urban management force installed in almost every city on mainland China. They mostly clamp down on illegal street vendors but also enforce rules on city sanitation, landscaping and parking. Chengguan officers have been increasingly criticised after some of them used bullying tactics that have resulted in injuries and sometimes death.
Shenyang hawker hoped for justice ahead of execution for double killing
Shenyang snack seller, executed yesterday for killing two urban management officers who beat him, clung to belief he would be vindicated
Laura Zhou and Verna Yu
A street hawker who was executed yesterday for stabbing two urban management officers to death in 2009 after they beat him was still hoping for vindication during his last hours, according to his wife.
The Shenyang City Intermediate People's Court said on its microblog that Xia Junfeng was executed on the charge of "intentional homicide" after it was endorsed by the Supreme People's Court.
The hawker's wife, Zhang Jing, told the South China Morning Post yesterday that Xia was still hoping for vindication during his last hours. She said he appeared calm during their half-hour meeting shortly before his execution, and he insisted he had acted in self-defence.
"As long as there is still one person back at my home, tell them not to give up appealing for me," Xia said in his last words to his wife.
"He told me that he won't accept it even if he died," Zhang said.
Zhang said her family was shocked and devastated by the execution because the Supreme Court had promised to look into the case seriously when they applied for a review of the death sentence two years ago.
"We didn't expect such an outcome after two years of waiting," she said.
On May 16, 2009, while selling roasted sausages and other snacks with Zhang in Shenyang in Liaoning province, Xia was seized by urban management officers - known as chengguan - and taken to their office, where he was beaten.
Xia fought back with a small knife he normally used for preparing food, stabbing two officers to death and injuring another.
He was convicted of intentional homicide and sentenced to death in November 2009. His appeal was rejected in April 2011.
The execution was a shock for his supporters, as the case had been under review by the Supreme Court for 28 months, offering a glimmer of hope that his death sentence would be commuted. The Supreme Court defended Xia's execution yesterday, saying on its microblog that "Xia's crime was particularly serious and did not deserve a lighter punishment".
Xia also told his wife yesterday for the first time that his confession presented by prosecutors at the trial two years ago was extracted through torture.
Xia expressed a last wish to have a photo taken with his family, but officials refused. "How could you be so cruel?" Zhang charged on her microblog.
Legal scholar Teng Biao , Xia's defence lawyer, said the case had not been properly investigated and lacked evidence that Xia killed the officers intentionally.
"It will make more people think about the legitimacy of the use of the death penalty," he said.
Tong Zongjin , an associate professor at China University of Political Science and Law, said on his microblog that if Gu Kailai , the wife of disgraced Politburo member Bo Xilai , only received a suspended death sentence - normally commuted to life imprisonment - for murdering British businessman Neil Heywood, then "there's no reason to execute Xia after he was beaten and killed [the chengguan] unintentionally".
The execution aroused widespread sympathy on the mainland's social media. It was the most popular topic on the Sina Weibo microblog yesterday, with more than 133,000 posts as of late yesterday afternoon.