A court in Beijing has 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 say is an unjust sentence, his lawyer said on Tuesday.
The sentence was handed down by the Chaoyang District People's Court in Beijing to Ji Zhongxing at 9:00 a.m. on Tuesday for "intentionally causing an explosion" in the Beijing Capital International Airport on July 20, Beijing-based lawyer Liu Xiaoyuan said.
Liu said he had argued throughout Ji's trial last month that the charge of "intentionally causing an explosion" wasn't supported by Ji's actions at the time, and that he should have been charged with "accidentally setting off an explosion," instead.
"Even the charge was problematic," Liu said. "I think this should have been a case of causing an accidental explosion, because he had no intention of setting off the blast, and he didn't intend to blow up the airport, nor to commit suicide at the airport, nor to blow up other passengers."
Liu hit out at the airport police for mishandling the incident, and prompting the accidental blast.
"He switched the explosives to his other hand because he was afraid the police were going to shoot at them."
"He caused no deaths or injuries, nor any heavy damage to public property," Liu said.
"I think that a six-year jail sentence is too harsh. I had expected 3-5 years, or even a suspended sentence," he said.
Ji, 34, attended his trial at the Beijing Chaoyang District People's Court last month on a stretcher following his detention immediately after setting off the blast at Terminal 3 of Beijing's International Capital Airport.
Official media said a police officer at the scene suffered minor injuries from the explosion, although Ji appears to have sustained deep burns from the blast himself, according to photos made public by his family.
Ji told the court he had detonated the explosives unintentionally, and begged for forgiveness.
Police beating 'not taken into account'
Sources in Guangdong have previously said that the bombing incident had sent shock waves through local government in Dongguan, where Ji says he was crippled in an act of police brutality in 2005.
Ji was severely beaten by police staff in 2005 when he had worked as a motorcycle driver in Dongguan in southern Guangdong province, causing him to become disabled, various reports have said.
"They didn't take into account [the beating and crippling] as a factor in this case," Liu said of the Beijing court.
He said there had so far been no word from authorities in Guangdong regarding the Ji family's bid for compensation for the 2005 police beating.
"There has been no news," Liu said. "We don't even know if they are actually investigating this case."
"What's so shocking is not that there has been no official response, eight years after Ji Zhongxing was crippled by this beating, but that when he takes a desperate measure like this, they don't take that into account."
Cell phone video of the July 20 bombing incident showed Ji calling on bystanders to stand clear ahead of the blast, and his action drew widespread sympathy online, where public anger is mounting over brutal law enforcement tactics.
"The court said people should use legal means to stand up for their rights," wrote @gujianjingjiu on a popular social media site.
"But who paid any attention to Ji Zhongxing after all those years of petitioning?"
"How many years will the police who beat him up serve in jail? Was that legal?"
Meanwhile, @chenwenwu commented: "A man who was crippled by a beating given by a government that then refuses to do anything for several years...still gets sentenced to jail."
Ji 'Upset' after hearing
Ji's brother, Ji Zhongji, said he had been allowed a three-minute meeting with his brother after the sentencing hearing.
"I saw my brother; we were both very upset ... but we didn't say much," he said. "But he did say he wanted to see his lawyer, and that he would appeal."
He said the Dongguan authorities had promised to make public the results of the investigation into his brother's beating.
"But they just keep saying that this document can't be made public, and that document can't be made public."
"Of course something's going on behind the scenes.... I guess they are afraid they'll lose their jobs."
Activists say a series of blasts in public places in China in recent months are symptomatic of deep social tensions and injustice that has no immediate solution.
The ruling Chinese Communist Party has 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 Yang Fan for RFA's Mandarin Service and by Lin Jing for the Cantonese Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.