Wednesday, October 22, 2008

An Open Letter Appealing for a Convicted Murderer

Three months ago, a 28-year old was arrested in Shanghai for suspicion of possessing a stolen bicycle. The suspect, Yang Jia (杨佳), received no official sympathy when he sued for police brutality during his detention. So, the young man took the matter into his own hand and attacked a police office with a knife, killing six unarmed policeman.

On his trial, Yang Jia did neither deny nor repent on his murdering act. He made it clear that his action was a revenge of the injustice he had received. The case has received much public coverage in Chinese media and internet, where Yang Jia was often hailed as a hero for standing up to the inhuman police force in China. Yang Jia, on the other hand, was sentenced to death as expected.

During the last couple of days, an open letter has been circulating on Chinese internet appealing for a special amnesty for Yang Jia. The letter was initially cosigned by fourty six scholars, artists, lawyers, and other citizens. The letter argued on Yang Jia's behalf alternately from criticizing police brutality to denouncing death penalty as an act of cruelty itself.

This open letter appealing for amnesty is a faint echo of the letters in the early spring of 1989, when scholars cosigned open letters appealing for amensty for Wei Jingsheng and other political prisoners. Indeed, it has been rare, if ever, to see a citizen action such as this since the days of 1989.

Among the original sigatures of the current open letter are at least two names who had deep involvements in the 1989 movement: journalist Dai Qing and scholar Zhang Lun (张伦). Other signataries include the famous legal scholar Yu Haocheng (于浩成) and outspoken artist Ai Weiwei (艾未未).

More signatures are still being collected for the letter.

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