Thousands of Jilin residents braved the freezing cold to attend a candlelight vigil in China’s northeastern city of Changchun on Tuesday evening to mourn the death of a two-month-old baby who had been stolen along with an SUV and was killed by the thief. 
The killing has left millions of Chinese heart-broken and infuriated. Many of them had been praying for the safe return of the baby.
“I cried when I heard about the killing on the radio,” a taxi driver surnamed Wang told Chinese media . Wang was one of the volunteers who joined a citywide manhunt for the stolen SUV and baby after they were reported missing this week. The culprit, Zhou Xijun, turned himself in to police on Tuesday and confessed to choking the baby to death after discovering the boy in the vehicle he stole.
Li Yu, a senior student at Changchun University, said he had brought toys to the vigil. During the search, Li and his classmates pitched in by posting announcements on social media sites to help track down the thief, an effort joined by millions of netizens from all over the country.
On Tuesday night, photos posted on Sina Weibo, China’s popular Twitter-like service, show people lighting candles in a snow-covered plaza, bringing flowers and mourning in groups. Lights were dimmed at 10.10pm as locals observed a moment of silence, said Chinese media.
On Wednesday, heated debates resumed about whether parents should be held accountable for negligence that lead to such tragedies. The father of the baby had left the SUV's engine running and its doors unlocked when the vehicle was stolen. He had run into a convenience store where he worked to turn up the heat and wanted to keep the baby warm.
“What happens when you take away the child from negligent parents in China?,” wrote a Shanghai netizen on Weibo. “Do we have foster homes to send them to like in the US? Or do you want to fine the parents who are often poverty-stricken?"
Many pleaded for harsher punishment for parents who fail to protect their children from harm.
“Defending [such parents] is akin to murdering more babies,” commented another.
A wave of anger and protest erupted on Weibo after a blogger posted part of a government decree ordering all Jilin provincial media to cover the story "positively".
转：长春baby遇害案 禁令截图 twitter.com/knifepoint/sta… 
— Valerie / 浅洚 (@knifepoint) March 5, 2013 
- The story shouldn’t be bigger than half a page on newspapers. TV channels shall not run featured long reports.
- Reports should criticise the killer and highlight the positive efforts made by the police.
- No questioning or finger-pointing of the police is allowed. Don’t criticise the city’s surveillance grid [known as sky-net in Chinese].
“Isn’t this like murdering the baby for a second time?” asked many netizens after reading the document.
The post was deleted hours later with no official explanation, but it had already been reposted and commented on thousands of times.
Defying the "official order", netizens online continued asking qeustions regarding the police investigation, which they call baffling.
Although Zhou, 48, has been arrested and has confessed to stealing the SUV and strangling the baby, witnesses had spotted a 30-year-old man at the scene, according to online accounts.
The discrepency led to speculation that Zhou had admitted to crimes committed by his son, to which the local police didn’t respond.
The baby’s mother had a heart attack when told about the death of her child. She is receiving treatment in a local hospital, said Chinese media.