Execution of hawker Xia Junfeng sparks anger and grief among lawyers and online community

Lawyers and internet users express anger over decision to carry out death sentence on man many mainlanders believe acted in self-defence

PUBLISHED : Friday, 27 September, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 27 September, 2013, 4:44am

The execution of a street hawker who killed two urban management officers after they had beaten him has sparked grief and anger across the nation.

One group called for citizen action while lawyers and intellectuals condemned the killing of Xia Junfeng , a man who had become a symbol of resistance against abusive officials.

Xia was executed on Wednesday for "intentional homicide", although his supporters said he had killed in self-defence. His wife, Zhang Jing , was shocked by the decision to carry out the execution.

Xia was sentenced to death in 2009 for the killings, and his appeal was rejected in 2011. But, following a public outcry, the Supreme Court promised to carry out a comprehensive review of Xia's case. There had been no word from the judiciary for 28 months, raising supporters' hopes that Xia's death sentence would be commuted.

Yesterday, pictures of his grieving widow collecting his ashes and colourful paintings by their 13-year-old son were widely posted on social media in a clear gesture of widespread sympathy. Initiatives for China, founded by US-based activist Yang Jianli, urged Xia's supporters to protest at 10am on Tuesday - the traditional seventh day when Chinese commemorate the passing of loved ones - by making noises with pots, pans, car horns or by singing and shouting at home or on the street.

"Xia Junfeng's death has made us sink into deep despair over the current regime. The people's anger has reached the point of explosion," it said in a statement. "We need to act."

It said every five-star national flag raised on that day, China's National Day, would commemorate Xia. The call for action is likely to be seen as provocative by the authorities who are often nervous about protestors or petitioners using the occasion to air their grievances.

An online "mourning hall" was set up by supporters yesterday to collect messages of condolence for Xia, but it was swiftly removed, probably by censors.

Twenty-five rights lawyers issued a joint statement to condemn what they said was an unjust execution and demanded that the Supreme Court allow public access to documents leading to Xia's death sentence.

The statement, signed by prominent lawyers including Li Fangping , Teng Biao and Jiang Tianyong , said the court did not allow witnesses who could have testified that Xia acted in self-defence.

Legal scholar He Weifang urged the Supreme Court to make public the complete court record of Xia's case.

Meanwhile, in Guangzhou, activists Xiao Qingshan , Zhang Shengyu and Ma Shengfen displayed a poster outside the Justice Department that read: "The violent urban management officers deserved to die. Xia Junfeng did not."

On May 16, 2009, while selling snacks with Zhang in Shenyang , Liaoning province, Xia was seized by urban management officers, known as chengguan, and taken to their office where, it is said, he was beaten.

Xia fought back with a small knife he carried for preparing food, stabbing two officers to death and injuring another.