One month ago today, street peddler Xia Junfeng was executed for the murder of two chengguan in 2009. The chengguan accosted Xia, an unlicensed snack vendor, and took him in for questioning. Xia stabbed the two officers during his interrogation. His lawyer argued that he acted in defense. While Xia’s case elicited sympathy online, it was not enough to change his sentence.
“Xia Junfeng” became a sensitive word at the time of his execution. Netizens questioned the justice of a system in which Xia is executed while Bo Xilai’s wife Gu Kailai suffers only a suspended death sentence–she will likely leave prison after a few years.
Xia has long been portrayed as a victim. This spring, activist Hu Jia posted a video of the filmmaker Hu Lifu singing “The Ballad of Old Xia,” a lament for Xia Junfeng’s father. The song is modeled after hanging ballads, best exemplified in the US by the Kinston Trio’s rendition of “Tom Dooley”–though the protagonist in “Old Xia” is far more sympathetic, not himself guilty of murder.
Hu Jia writes about the song on YouTube [zh]:
A book signing for a collection of paintings by Xia Junfeng and Zhang Jing’s son Xia Jianqiang was held at the Phenomenon Cafe in Beijing’s Songzhuang Xiaobao art district on May 11, 2011. Hu Lifu, an independent film director documenting Xia Junfeng’s case and the fate of Zhang Jing and Xia Jianqiang, poured his heart into his song “The Ballad of Old Xia” at the booksigning. This song is dedicated to Xia Junfeng’s father, and to all the people from the bottom of society like Xia. I still hope those chengguan who terrorize ordinary people hear this song.
It was hard to control my sadness while taping this, so there’s some shaking in the video.
Xia Junfeng’s son Xia Jianqiang came under fire when Taiwanese artist Jimmy Liao Fubin claimed the 13-year-old boy had copied his illustrations. Xia Jianqing’s mother, Zhang Jing, later issued an apology on Weibo. This unfortunate turn complicates the story, a consequence of what lawyer Teng Biao calls the “over-hyping” of social media. It does not diminish the hardships faced by the Xias.
Click the “cc” button on the YouTube window to view lyrics.
Via CDT Chinese. Translation by Mengyu Dong. Thanks to Joanna Spanos for research assistance.