Links Between Airport Blast and Fruit Vendor’s Death

Posts from a now-deleted blog attributed to accused Beijing airport bomber Ji Zhongxing appear to explain his motive for the explosion: he had apparently struggled for years to win compensation after being beaten into paralysis by police. Though that incident took place eight years ago, Ji’s response comes days after another man trying to earn a living on the streets was allegedly killed by chengguan urban management officials in Hunan. Ji was taken to hospital after the blast with injuries to his arm, but no one else was hurt. From William Wan at The Washington Post:

In a 2006 online blog on a popular Chinese forum, a man named Ji Zhongxing described being severely beaten in 2005 by local authorities while he was earning money by giving rides on his scooter. Wielding steel batons, officers broke his back, paralyzing him from the waist down, he wrote.

[…] His family reported the incident, but local authorities denied beating Ji and said they emerged from the building to rescue Ji from hooligans who were beating him, according to the deleted blog. Ji and his family were saddled by medical fees.

[…] The blog quotes someone identified as Ji Zhongxing’s brother saying, “Because we are farmers living in poverty, no matter who we turned to, no one of them took up our case.”

“We cried to the sky, the sky didn’t listen. We cried to the earth, the earth kept silent. We cannot find justice.” [Source]

The Telegraph also quoted Ji’s brother, Ji Zhongji. From Tom Phillips and Malcolm Moore:

“We filed two legal cases against the police in Xintang but we never received any official compensation,” he said.

In 2008, Mr Ji went to Beijing to put his case before the central government, his brother said, but had been asked to return home and had not ventured to the capital since.

Two days ago, however, their father, who lived with Mr Ji and cared for him, reported that he had gone missing.

“The first I knew about this was when I heard it in the media,” his brother said. “I am extremely worried. I have no idea what to do.” [Source]

The incident echoes other desperate acts by people who had despaired of finding answers through official channels. Amnesty reported last year that 41 people around China committed self-immolation over forced evictions between 2009 and 2011. Ji’s case also recalls those of Qian Mingqi, who killed himself and two others in explosions at local government offices in Fuzhou in 2011, and Chen Shuizong, said to have killed 47 people with an incendiary device aboard a Xiamen bus in June. (In contrast, witnesses say Ji deliberately warned others away before blowing himself up to ensure that only he would be harmed.) Both men had spent years unsuccessfully pursuing land compensation and retirement benefits, respectively. Both attracted a surprising amount of sympathy despite their actions, because many could identify with their frustration.

The violence that left Ji paralyzed has a more recent parallel in the allegedly fatal beating of Hunan watermelon vendor Deng Zhengjia on Wednesday. Witnesses claim that Deng was bludgeoned with his own measuring weight during a confrontation over unlicensed trading with a group of chengguan. Local authorities, on the other hand, have insisted that he simply collapsed mid-argument. Even so, following street protests and an online outcry, they have detained six chengguan, fired two officials pending investigation, and granted Deng’s family compensation of 897,000 yuan ($146,208). From Andrew Jacobs at The New York Times:

Mr. Deng’s death has once again drawn national attention to China’s army of urban management officials, known as chengguan, who occupy an awkward and ill-defined place in the government’s apparatus to maintain stability. More powerful than private security guards but lacking the authority to make arrests or carry weapons, chengguan have for many Chinese become the most visible face of the government’s authoritarian impulses.

[…] Although Mr. Deng’s death was not the first time a citizen had met a violent end resisting their efforts, it has provoked an unusually loud outcry, with some Chinese commentators likening the case to that of Mohamed Bouazizi, the Tunisian fruit seller whose self-immolation two years ago after his cart was confiscated set off the rioting that toppled Tunisia’s authoritarian president and inspired the Arab Spring revolts.

[…] The ruling Communist Party’s expansive security system is well equipped to ensure that such episodes do not set off wider unrest. But the popular outrage can only complicate President Xi Jinping’s efforts to reduce the animosity that many Chinese feel toward party functionaries and law enforcement officials. [Source]

See more on Deng’s case, including a round-up of cartoonist’s responses via CDT.


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