China takes fresh look at gangster’s ‘murder’

After widespread calls for leniency, top prosecutor to re-examine evidence against Shandong man jailed for life for killing thug in loan dispute

PUBLISHED : Monday, 27 March, 2017, 8:01am
UPDATED : Monday, 27 March, 2017, 11:40pm

China’s top prosecutor’s office said on Sunday that it would investigate whether a man jailed for life for murdering a gangster acted in self-defence, amid public demands for leniency in the case.

Shandong man Yu Huan was jailed for life by the Liaocheng Intermediate People’s Court last month for killing gangster Du ­Zhihao in Guan county last year.

Du was one of 11 thugs who confronted Yu and his mother, Su Yinxia, at Su’s brake-lining factory over a loan repayment on April 14.

Su, the owner of Shandong ­Yuanda Industry and Trade, had borrowed 1 million yuan (HK$1.23 million) from a loan shark at a 10 per cent monthly interest rate in 2014. She had paid back 1.53 million yuan by April 14 but the gangsters demanded more money. The gangsters beat up Su and Yu in the factory’s reception area, and Du also pulled down his pants and exposed his genitals.

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A passing factory worker called the police. Officers arrived and told the gangsters to settle the matter peacefully. After the officers left, Yu and Su said they also wanted to go but the gangsters barred their way. Yu then picked up a fruit knife and stabbed four of the gang, including Du, according to the Liaocheng court’s verdict. Du died of wounds sustained in the attack.

The court found Yu guilty of intentional wounding and jailed him for life. The provincial high court agreed on Friday to hear Yu’s appeal against the sentence. The Supreme People’s Procuratorate said the case was a priority and it would investigate whether Yu acted in self-defence.

Mainland media, academics and members of the public argued in Yu’s favour.

“Yu is innocent,” Yi Zhongtian, a literature professor at Xiamen University, wrote on his microblog. “Stabbing the people who insulted his mother was a legitimate act of self-defence.”

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Beijing-based lawyer Xu Xin said that if he were Yu’s lawyer, he would advise him to plead not guilty.

One anonymous online commenter wrote: “If the law could not protect me and my family, and if we had been extremely humiliated or our rights infringed, I would act as Yu did, and be even firmer. I would kill these people.”

In a commentary yesterday, People’s Daily said the strong public opposition to the sentence showed Yu’s case warranted further consideration.

In another commentary, Shanghai-based news portal said: “How does justice balance reality and the law, the right to life and the right to self-defence? Does the public believe the balance is right? These are the questions this kind of case should answer.”

Mainland courts are often criticised for their tough sentences.

In November, a court in Hebei sentenced villager Jia Jing­long to death for killing an official in response to the forced demolition of Jia’s home. The legal community said the case revealed that lack of property protections for the less well-off.