Yao Jiaxin, a junior at Xi’an Conservatory of Music, who was sentenced to death for intentional homicide, was executed today. On the night of October 22, 2010, while driving in his own sedan, Yao hit and injured Zhang Miao, a 26-year old mother who was riding an electric bike. As he saw that Zhang was trying to get his plate number, Yao panicked and stabbed Zhang repeatedly to death with a knife. Yao was convicted and sentenced to death earlier this year. The Supreme Court approved his death penalty today, and he was executed afterwards.
Yao Jiaxin’s has been a high-profile case for many reasons. First of all, as a college student, he had his own car. When the media reported his case, many thought that his parents were powerful officials, which didn’t turn out to be the case. He was seen as a second Li Qiming, the son of Baoding City’s Police Deputy Chief Li Gang. Last October, Li Qiming killed a college student in an accident and claimed that his dad was Li Gang so nobody could touch him. Li Qiming’s case invoked waves of criticism from Chinese public, who are fed up with government officials’ abuse of power. Exposed by the media not long after Li’s case, Yao’s case fueled this anger in the public and took it to another level, especially when his victim was a powerless woman from a village who worked as a helper at a small restaurant. The public opinion, sadly, was predominated by the request for death penalty.
Another reason this case has attracted so much public attention has to do with the violent nature of the crime and the criminal’s identity as a young and promising college student. Yao was said to be a quiet young man, a gentle young pianist. Yet, in order to avoid responsibilities, he chose to kill an innocent injured woman with such violence. The public was shocked by his selfishness and lack of morality. The public has directed the blame on mostly the declining morality in Chinese society in general in Chinese’s crazy for material wealth. Others also blamed Yao’s parents and schools for not doing a good job and raised a “demon” in him. Yet others pointed out the unjust laws under which injuring someone in a car accident costs the responsible driver more than killing someone. Thus there’s a saying in China that “killing is better than injuring.”
As the public’s cry for Yao’s execution was getting louder every day, some Chinese, mostly intellects and law scholars, called for lenience and proposed to use death penalty cautiously if not banning it all together in China. However, the voice of this group of people seemed to be quite weak in the overwhelming discourse on the opposite side. Some angry netizens even accused those who opposed death penalty of being “wumao” (“fifty cents”) or the minions of those in power.
Yao’s execution today triggered another surge of online discourse. On weibo.com, Sina’s weibo (microblogging) site, Yao Jiaxin’s father, Yao Qingwei, has been posting weibos since Yao was convicted. Today, in one of his weibos he writes:
药家鑫之父药庆卫：Yao Jiaxin was executed today. We were waiting at home [for the notice] to bring back his body, but who knows that the Court didn’t let us view his body, but only asked us to wait for his ashes. I said for my child that he wouldn’t donate organs, because Professor Kong (Kong Qingdong, professor from Peking University – author’s notes) said that “Yao Jiaxin looked like a murderer,” and I was worried that Yao Jiaxin’s organs would do harm to others. I only wish that Yao Jiaxin’s death will wash away all of his sin, leaving nothing to harm this world.
Many netizens have responded to Yao Qingwei’s weibo. The sarcastic bitterness in this weibo and Yao Qingwei’s personal tragedy of losing a son won him sympathy from many netizens.
Microblogger 周伟良 writes:
In the end, both family were hurt. Yao papa, please accept my condolence.
Another, 斯凯迪歪, writes:
Yao Jiaxin was a criminal, but Yao Qingwei is only a father. Just as @贺卫方 said, we can sentence a person to death penalty by law, but can’t we refrain from celebrating the execution of one of us with a public fiesta? In the same sense, we can feel that our demand was met, but can’t we stop shouting out our opinions on the weibo of a father who just lost his son?
Others criticized the authority for their insensitivity to Yao’s family. For instance, 梁嘉璟_Ken writes:
Why not show some respect to the family of the deceased?! Even the family of the executed!
This is helpless. Chinese laws are this inhumane. The belief in “an eye for an eye” has been deeply rooted in China. Live well, and be a model for China’s more humane laws in the future.
Some netizens, unsurprisingly, suspect that there’s some sort of conspiracy on the part of the authority to harvest Yao’s organs for sale.
Microblogger 天涯赵瑜 writes:
Is it true as what they say that they wouldn’t let the family to get close (to the body), and take the opportunity to sale the organs of the executed criminal? What are the facts? If this is real, then it’s really unfair. Yao Jiaxin was executed, and has been punished for his crime, but not releasing the body to his parents is just too much.
There are also netizens who condemn death penalty as an inhumane, such as 蔡一哲, who writes:
Killing to stop killing. Bloody law! No human rights!
Also Yao Jiaxin committed a crime, what happened has happened. Taking another perspective, I think: 1. Chinese law is not humane enough. 2. Public discourse sometimes can destroy people. 3. I see many netizens’ indifference, but although his parents were at fault, with so much pain after they lost their son, they deserve some condolence from others. Isn’t it that hard?
The microblogging above is right. Many netizens still believe that Yao’s father deserved the pain of losing a son because it’s his fault to have raised such a “beast.”
A timeline of Yao Jiaxin’s case
October 20, 2010 – Yao Jiaxin drove a sedan and hit Zhang Miao, who was riding on a electric bike moving in the same direction. Injured, Zhang tried to record Yao’s plate number. Panicked, Yao stabbed Zhang repeatedly to death with a knife and fled the scene afterwards. Later that night, Yao hit another two pedestrians, and was caught by passersby when he tried to run.
October 22, 2010 – Yao was arrested for the second hit-and-run accident, but he did not confess the first accident and the killing of Zhang.
October 23, 2010 – Accompanied by his parents, Yao turned himself in for killing Zhang. He was detained by the Xi’an police that night.
November 25, 2010 – Approved by the Xi’an prosecutorial authority, Yao was officially arrested for intentional homicide.
January 11, 2011 – Yao was charged with intentional homicide by Xi’an Prosecutor’s Office.
March 23, 2011 – Yao was tried in Xi’an Intermediate People’s Court for intentional homicide. He expressed remorse, and his attorney defended him by claiming his action as “passion killing” instead of intentional homicide.
April 22, 2011 – Xi’an Intermediate People’s Court ruled Yao guilty of intentional homicide. Yao was sentenced to death penalty, deprived of political rights for life, and responsible for a compensation of 45498.5 yuan to the victim’s family.
May 20, 2011 – Shannxi Province Superior People’s Court dismissed Yao’s appeal and sustained the original ruling. Yao’s sentence of death penalty was submitted to the Supreme Court for approval.
June 7, 2011 – The Supreme Court approved Yao’s death penalty. Yao was executed.