Mixed opinions on Deng Yujiao verdict

Raymond Li

The decision to allow a hotel waitress from Hubei's Badong county who killed a local official to walk free was met with mixed feelings.

The trial of Deng Yujiao at the tightly guarded Badong County People's Court yesterday drew a crowd of several hundred people - largely volunteers - plus a few hand-picked reporters from official media outlets who were allowed to attend the hearing.

Deng was found guilty of intentionally causing bodily harm but allowed to go free after the court ruled she had acted in self-defence, had turned herself in to police and was 'suffering a certain level of mental disorder'.

A volunteer who identified himself as Mr Wu said he had been waiting outside with 200 people since 9am.

He said his group had been followed by police after arriving in Badong to show solidarity with Deng.

Mr Wu said he feared Deng would be given a prison term and the verdict was not too bad because at least she did not have to go to jail. 'But it's far from perfect because she didn't commit a crime,' said Mr Wu, who was ordered to leave Badong. Another group member said they planned to greet Deng by singing the national anthem, but she did not come out of the courtroom.

The fallout from the slaying of the official and ensuing attempts to manipulate public opinion by Badong police triggered a national outcry over what many perceived to be rampant injustice and official corruption.

Wu Gan , an online activist commonly known as Tu Fu (The Butcher), rushed to Badong to advise Deng's family on her defence. He said he was happy with the outcome because she was free.

Ye Haiyan, of the Wuhan women's rights group, said she could live with the verdict but she still believed Deng was innocent. 'At the bottom of my heart, she will always be innocent because I believe there's no such thing as excessive force when you fight against rape and for your dignity,' said Ms Ye.

She said Deng had done much to help the plight of women on the mainland and she would now like her to be able to live an ordinary life. 'Now our only concern is whether she can live like an ordinary person from now on,' Ms Ye said.

Yirenping, a Beijing-based rights advocacy group, questioned the legality of the hastily reached verdict.

Group head Lu Jun said Deng should be reminded of her right to appeal, 'because a guilty verdict would deprive Deng Yujiao of many opportunities such as further studies and overseas visits because of her criminal record'.

Zhang Zanning, a professor from Southeast University's Law School, said the verdict could set a very bad precedent by deterring potential victims against defending themselves from danger.

'Deng Yujiao was lucky to have so much online support and public furore, but other victims might not be so lucky and they could face murder charges,' he said.

Striking back

Timeline of the Deng Yujiao saga

May 10 Deng Yujiao, karaoke bar waitress at Xiongfeng Hotel in Badong county, kills Deng Guida, local Communist Party official, and injures Huang Dezhi, of local Agricultural Service Centre

May 11 Deng Yujiao turns herself in and is admitted to local mental hospital

May 13 Badong county police say Deng Guida pushed Deng Yujiao onto sofa and was killed with fruit knife

May 14 Public support for Deng Yujiao starts boiling over on internet

May 21 Xia Lin, volunteer who briefly serves as her defence lawyer, meets Deng Yujiao

May 23 Police announce Zhang Shumei, Deng Yujiao's mother, had fired Mr Xia and another lawyer for violating her daughter's privacy. Police say Ms Zhang hired two lawyers from semi-official Hubei Lawyers Association without approaching Mr Xia to terminate their contract as required by law

May 26 Central Publicity Department issues gag order requiring media outlets to stick to officially sanctioned reports. Internet posts about case are subject to heavy censorship. Under public pressure, Badong police release Deng

May 31 Police say they have finished investigation and referred Deng to prosecutors' office for using excessive force

June 16 Deng Yujiao goes on trial and is released