Chinese Court Hands Death Sentence to Shanxi Bomber

2014-04-28
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In this screen grab from China's official CCTV, Feng Zhijun (C) is arrested by local police in Taiyuan, Nov. 8, 2013.
In this screen grab from China's official CCTV, Feng Zhijun (C) is arrested by local police in Taiyuan, Nov. 8, 2013.
ImagineChina

Authorities in the northern Chinese city of Taiyuan have sentenced a man to death after finding him guilty of setting off several deadly blasts near a provincial ruling Chinese Communist Party headquarters last November that killed at least one person, his lawyer said on Monday.

Feng Zhijun, 42, was handed the death sentence by the Taiyuan Intermediate People's Court, his lawyer Nan Shoujun told RFA after the sentencing.

He was convicted of laying explosive devices in at least two locations outside the Communist Party headquarters in Taiyuan, the capital of the northern province of Shanxi, on Nov. 6, 2013.

State media said one person died in the blasts, and a further 17 were injured.

"He was sentenced to death for causing an explosion, to be carried out immediately," Nan said.

Feng was tried behind closed doors on April 16, and sentenced on April 25, Nan said, and appeared to believe that the sentence had already been carried out.

"It is as you said," Nan replied, when asked if execution had been immediate, adding: "He won't be appealing."

He declined to give details of the judge's remarks during the sentencing hearing, nor of the trial, however.

But he denied that Feng had a grievance against the government.

"That I can answer; he wasn't a petitioner," Nan said.

Taiyuan blasts

Feng was detained during the course of police investigations just two days after the explosions, which came hard on the heels of a deadly jeep explosion in Beijing's Tiananmen Square ahead of a high-profile meeting of the Communist Party.

The Taiyuan blasts rocked Yingze Street at the height of the morning rush hour. Eyewitnesses reported seeing heavy smoke and flames billowing from a minivan surrounded by debris after the explosions.

The homemade devices were planted in roadside flower-beds in an area frequented by petitioners: ordinary Chinese who pursue complaints and grievances against the government, often for years, and to no avail, eyewitnesses told RFA at the time.

Activists have described a series of blasts in public places in China in recent months as symptomatic of deep social tensions and injustice that have no immediate solution.

According to Shanxi-based rights activist Li Maolin, who has been following Feng's case closely, none of the details of his trial or the police investigation have been released to the public, giving rise to widespread speculation about his motives.

"Some say he was a hired assassin, while another theory says he was a petitioner who was beaten up by [the authorities] on Nov. 5, and who wanted to take revenge on society," Li said.

"I think all these possibilities are likely; he was clearly targeting the government, so it must have been an issue linked to the government," he said.

Li said he still believed Feng was motivated by some kind of grievance against local officials.

"Social problems are the government's problem," he said. "If the government was a decent one, you wouldn't get all this unrest."

"I think it's highly likely that he was aiming [the blasts] at the government," Li said. "If he wanted revenge on society, then he could have targeted a school, an airport or a railway station."

Airport explosion

Last October, authorities in Beijing handed down a six-year jail term to a disabled man who set off an explosion at the city's international airport, sparking anger over what many said was an unjust sentence.

The sentence was handed down by the Chaoyang District People's Court in Beijing to Ji Zhongxing, who says he was crippled in an act of police brutality in 2005.

Chinese authorities have kept up a "stranglehold" on petitioners and rights activists in recent years, subjecting thousands to arbitrary detention in labor camps and unofficial "black jails," rights groups say.

China's army of petitioners—many of whom pursue complaints against the government over forced evictions, wrongful detention, physical attacks, and deaths in custody—are increasingly targeted by police and officials for punishment.

Many of those who pursue official complaints against government wrongdoing in their hometowns have done so to no avail for several years, some for decades. Many are middle-aged or elderly people with little or no income.

Reported by Qiao Long for RFA's Mandarin Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.

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