October 22, 2009

Chongqing Rich Kid Receives Death Penalty for Killing Schoolmate

Yang Shiya, the victim

Killer Zou Hongcheng at Chongqing First City Court

Zou Hongcheng (邹鸿成, pseudonym Chen Renzheng), whose father is an official of Chongqing's local militia, received the death sentence on October 19, 2009 for stabbing female schoolmate Yang Shiya(杨诗雅) to death, thus ending for the time being a three-month murder case that has ignited fury across the Chinese online community. Although Zou's parents allegedly expressed strong displeasure at the court decision and pledged to appeal case, Netizens all over China applauded the verdict.

19 year-old Zou Hongcheng and Yang Shiya are both students of the Sichuan International Studies University. The two first met on QQ, a popular instant messaging computer program in China, in 2008. Zou supposedly fell in love with Yang at first sight and tried to court Yang. Yang did not return the feelings. On July 13, 2009, a month after his advances were rejected, Zou concealed two steel knives on his person and arranged a meeting with Yang in a nearby mall. After his invitations for lunch were again turned down, Zou pulled out the lethal objects and stabbed Yang in the neck, head, waist, and wrists areas more than 100 times. Yang died on spot. It was said her head almost got severed.

Witnesses of the attack wrote about the vicious crime online, and the human search flesh engine (人肉搜索) quickly provided details on Zou's family background, including his name and his parents' names. In the process, it was also revealed that Zou had a criminal past, raping his home tutor while still in high school.

Court proceedings for this high-profile homicide case began in the morning of October 19 and was attended by more than 300 people. Zou's lawyer prepared three points in defense, each of which was refuted. Zou claimed that he and Yang had confirmed their relationship in February and had been dating since then. The fatal attack in the mall was merely a crime of passion, arising from a lover's quarrel. The court, however, said that since Yang rejected Zou's advances, claim of their relationship is untrue. Furthermore, Zou bought the two knives separately, one in June and the other in July, clearly indicating some level of premeditation, not to mention the stabs were almost all fatal. Finally, not to disappoint Netizens who already heard of plans by Zou's parents, the defense argued that Zou's obsessive-compulsive disorder was responsible for the attack. Again, the court maintained that Zou was judged to be perfectly capable, OCD is not a valid excuse for mitigating punishment.

In addition to the murder charge, the prosecutor brought rape accusations against Zou. While Zou insisted that the sex with his high school tutor was consensual, the court produced evidence of a phone call that the tutor placed immediately after the rape, during which she tearfully recounted the harrowing experience.

After the conviction, the public sighed a collective sigh of relief. Previously the Chongqing media had been silent on the murder case, and rumors of hush money abound. Witnesses as well as Netizens expressed their concern that the prosecution will take at least one year, after which Zou will successfully fade from public view. Precedents indicate that in such situations Zou would be more likely to receive a life sentence instead of the death sentence, which can then be more easily altered to some limited term of imprisonment.

It remains to be seen if the Zou family will seek to appeal and whether the next court will overturn this ruling. It was said that Zou previously got off easily on the rape charge because of bribes his parents paid to the local law enforcement.


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