In a fit of desperation, after being ignored by the legal system for years, Wang Qiang finally resorted to violence. In July last year, the 34-year-old villager from Qinhuangdao of Hebei Province stabbed four court officials, and was given the death sentence with a two-year reprieve after being convicted of attempted murder this June.
Zhang Yufeng, Wang’s wife, told the Global Times that they “have appealed to a higher court and are waiting for a second trial.”
Wang was no stranger to those who worked at the Qinhuangdao Intermediate People’s Court, having campaigned for his father since 2008.
Wang Shuwen, Wang’s father and a farmer in Changli county, was paralyzed in 1994 after being shot by Li Hetian, a local policeman, who alleged that he had attempted to flee after being fined for gambling.
However, the father claimed to the Beijing News that Li had shot him in the back after he had already “knelt on the ground with his head in hands.”
In August 1994, a local court ruled that Li had violated regulations on the use of weapons by police and “discharged accidentally,” ordering him to pay Wang 170,000 yuan ($26,350) in compensation, a deal Wang Qiang’s mother agreed to on behalf of her husband.
However, the father, who suffered paraplegia as a result of the shooting, believed the ruling was unfair as “it spared Li from punishment.”
Wang Shuwen began to ask people for help in petitioning for a fairer ruling, but kept the decision from his son for years until 1998.
Wang soon dropped out of university on learning of his father’s fight, and took up the baton of appeals and petitions in 2003. “Wang bought a lot of law books and often read them until midnight, and was determined to seek justice through legal channels,” Zhang said.
The process proved to be more difficult than Wang thought. In November 2004, a local police station denied Wang’s appeal. In 2006, the Higher People’s Court of Hebei Province turned Wang away, pointing out his appeal “lacked grounds.”
Wang was unable to offer evidence to show that the compensation deal was made against his father’s will or that the package was unreasonable, “so there was slim chance of his appeal being accepted,” an anonymous lawyer who knew about Wang’s case told the Beijing News.
However, Wang insisted on continuing with his appeal in the belief that “if new judges assumed office, there would be hope of justice for his father,” Zhang told the Global Times.
Wang became tortured with his repeated frustrations and failures, prompting him at one point to cut his thigh with a knife, and even attempting to commit suicide.
On July 2 last year, Wang paid his last visit to Qinhuangdao Intermediate People’s Court, where Li Li, a 39-year-old judge, received him.
“She was impatient and didn’t listen to me at all. I think they (the officials) don’t take our (civilians’) cases seriously, and I had no power to ask for justice. So I had the idea of teaching her a lesson,” Wang confessed after his arrest.
The weapon used in the attack was a knife Wang frequently carried around to defend himself.
Li, who was stabbed a dozen times, has been at home and unable to work since the attack. It is said that she has suffered serious physical and mental trauma, Beijing News reported.
Li is not the only official to have been attacked while on duty. In May 2009, Xia Junfeng, a street vendor in Shenyang, Liaoning Province, killed two urban management officials after they had beaten him in a squabble.
In July 2008, Yang Jia, an unemployed man from Beijing, killed six Shanghai policemen after reportedly being badly beaten by them and had his application for compensation due to psychological damage rejected.
What went wrong?
Chen Tao, a criminal lawyer with the Beijing Lawyers Association, pointed out that officials’ attitudes were the main cause of some of these tragedies.
“Officials, whose appointment and promotion are decided by their superiors rather than the public, tend to be indifferent to protecting common people’s interests,” Chen added.
In view of the fact that dereliction of duty in China resulting in serious harm can lead to dismissal from office at the very least, the punishment Li Hetian received is lenient, Chen told the Global Times.
“China has improved a lot in terms of legislation in recent years, but when it comes to law enforcement, there is “room for improvement,” Li Yunlong, president of the Jiangxi Society of Criminology, told the Global Times.
However, he added that other factors, including extreme personalities and widespread media coverage of violence, are also to blame for these cases.
Qu Xinjiu, a professor at the Beijing-based China University of Political Science and Law, told the Global Times that “more efforts in legal aid by the local government are expected” in future in a bid to prevent similar tragedies from happening again.