China: To be Dead or Not? Amnesty Appeal for Cop-killer

There are two quotes of Yang Jia, the 28-year-old man who killed 6 cops in Shanghai this year, that have been widely circulated among people. First,


In a country run and guarded by such police, a citizen, stainless and law-abiding for over 20 years, could go as far as being put in a jail.

And in his first trial that a death sentence was the verdict, Yangjia pointed at the judges, saying,


it’s because of you that the police dare to do so.

Yangjia was alluding to his experience in Shanghai that he was interrogated by the police for three hours, abused, yet the government has not released the complete recording to confirm his accusation. All we know is that to avenge, he broke into a police station on July 1 this year, murdering 6 cops with a knife.

He won compassion as well as commendations that praised him do something “we want to but dare not to.” In both the first and second trials he was sentenced to death, with forensic psychiatry identifying him as with sanity. But the qualification of the psychiatry agency, the absence of key witnesses and Yangjia’s mother, doubtfully abducted, raised a number of questions.

Recognizing the problems, scores of journalists, scholars, and non-professionals, including citizen reporter Zola, economist Yushi Mao, united to wrtie an appeal letter for an amnesty of Yangjia. Death sentence, they argue, is not fair for Yangjia. A brief translation followed:


A citizen appeal for amnesty of Yang Jia


It is a striking case that Yang Jia killed police in Shanghai this July, which has drawn a massive and continuous attention. We feel sorry with the incident and for the 6 victim police…..meanwhile, given the deep concern upon the judicial development in China, we keep a close watch on the very unfair treatment of Yang Jia since the case happened.

Then , the letter listed 5 reasons that justify an amnesty.


In terms that the United Nation has passed numerous declarations, resolutions to require repeal of death sentence; given the fact that most of countries have repealed death sentence.


4. 鉴于本案所面对的需要改革的存在重多问题的司法制度背景,以及国内外各界普遍存在的对该案的审判程序存在的明显的不公的质疑;

Given that the case involves multiple aspects of our problematic legal system, given the many questions of the injustice in the legal procedure.




We appeal the central government to launch a special inspection of the case, and grant an amnesty , according to the legal procedure, to Yangjia who bears people’s compassion and attention.

The letter then expound on the five items. In the second one, the letter traced back to a history:


In 1979, lady Jiang Aizhen murdered three people in Xinjiang. However, People’s Daily and the local court received in 5 months over 20 thousand letters from all walks of life to appeal for a mitigationn, which led to the final repeal of her death sentence. The act inspired people and relieve the intense social contradiction at the time.

The third reason focuses on the case itself:

越来越多包括二审过程中披露的事实显示,本案起因于警察严重侵害杨佳先生的身体,杨佳先生的人格亦受到严重侮辱。杨佳先生在长期经正常合法途经寻求 权利补偿不果且得不到公正司法救济的情况下,采取极端手段,导致了这场悲剧。这也是为什么杨佳先生的行为以及他遭受的遭遇招致社会各界几乎是一边倒的同情 的原因。本案到底属于什么性质,需要最高当局从司法伦理、政治伦理的高度审慎研判。这是对最高当局政治良心、政治智慧的一次考验。
案件发生后,上海地方当局拒绝公布案件全部事实真相。决定本案性质和刑期的关键证人——杨佳母亲被公然绑架,至今不见人,关键证人——七名上海警察 拒绝出庭作证。在完全违背法定程序的情况下,秘密强行一审判处杨佳死刑,二审维持原判。如果最高当局不能采取特殊的司法救济,必然给全体国民、国际社会留 下整个政权、国家机器在围剿一个受到不公正对待、血气方刚的二十多岁青年的印象。….

3. injustice exist in the legal system and procedure.
More and more facts demonstrated that the murder originated from the police’s abuse of Yangjia, both on his body and dignity. Fruitless laboring on a search of legal compensation, without fair legal aid, Yang took a radical act that bears the tragedy. That’s why Yangjia wins a predominant support from people….. this is a test of high authority's political conscience and wisdom.

After the incident, Shanghai refused to reveal a complete account of the case. Key witness, Yangjia’s mother, was openly abducted,missing till today; and the 7 Shanghai police, refused to attend the trial. Against the legal procedure, the court secretly ruled a death sentence upon Yangjia, and maintained the verdict at the 2nd trial. If the high authority is not giving any special legal aid, it will certainly leave people thinking that the polity is attempting to crush on a ill-treated, full-blooded young man……

In the end, the letter says,


….to take this as an outset of a historic process of death sentence repeal, establishment of amnesty system, and the construction of modern, civilized state ruled by law.

The appeal is put online to collect more signatures,now being widely circulated. However, not everyone stands with it. Celebrated blogger Wuyuesanren五岳散人 says in his blog post


Why I didn’t sign the appeal letter

个人以为,杨佳事件远不是提请特赦死刑、进而向废除死刑进步的好机会。杀孽过重不说,而且是对并没有对他造成直接伤害的警察进行了报复。即使中国所有的警 察都是维护这个专政机器的最忠实的走狗,也未免背离了最朴素的找对仇人再下手的江湖道义。连坐法都已经是昨日黄花了,针对某特定群体中不特定的人而施用的 暴力,即使其中有多少正义成分,也是有些问题的。

I personally think the Yangjia case is not a chance for a leap to death sentence repeal. Letting alone the excessive killings, he didn’t revenge towards exactly the police that abused him. Even if every Chinese police might be a watch dog for this authoritarian machine, the act violates the tit-for-tat rule. The way he avenged is out of date. It is questionable how just it could be to target random individuals in a certain group.

He also questioned that what the letter appealed is actually a political intervention into the legal procedure.


So the appeal for amnesty is not a call for a law-ruling society, but only a hope that the authority will FLATTER the public. The must we should do is, however, to question to the bottom of the illegal court procedure in this case. And it should be a persistent effort, a work that should be done in every public event

饱醉豚 in echoed 五岳散人’s point.

杨佳杀人 案,大众需要呼吁或示威抗议的,是审理案子本身的程序问题。杨佳指定的证人吴钰骅等人未到场;对此案的取证至关重要的人物——杨佳的母亲,被绑架失踪;杨 佳的精神病鉴定单位和鉴定程序存在严重问题——一个应该回避的、不具备鉴定资格的单位,一天就做出结论而不是通常的一个月;该案的侦查过程中,参与者大多 是上海警方,他们是受害人的同事,本来也是应该回避的。

What we need to protest against is the problematic legal procedure. The witness Yangjia appointed is not present; Yang’s mother has been missing, abducted; the agency that identified Yang as sane is doubtable in qualification and involved in interest conflict. Moreover, it generated its report in one day, not one month. The major investigators in the case are from Shanghai. They should have avoided the interest conflict too.

He concluded:


An appeal for amnesty is equal to an acknowledgment of the court’s procedural as just, also a call for political intervention. No legal basis justifies any government amnesty like this.


  • Howard

    I m wondering, to be fair, what those scores of journalists, scholars, and non-professionals, including citizen reporter Zola, and economist Yushi Mao, would say if one of the 6 killed cops is their relative, say, their brother, or their son?
    I m wondering, what will happen or what the justice will say to Yang Jia, if this case happened in another country, say, US? Is an amnesty possible there? How will the public respond to the case?
    Anyway, just imagine this happened in NYPD (like Shanghai Public Safety Bureau), and following the case will be quite interesting, right?
    Wait and see what will happen then…

  • chan

    Thousands of Chinese without money or social status are treated unfairly like Yang in China when they have to deal with government officials or police. Cause those officials or policemen think they are masters instead of servants of Chinese people. Very few can get the justice done through legal ways. More choose to keep silent rather than retaliating like Yang. One day the dam of silence will break and flood…

  • Angela

    Cruel treatment received from another human been does not give anyone the right to retaliate by using violence such as murder.
    It is not YaJiang’s ‘HUMAN RIGHTS’ to kill other human beens.
    If everyone in the world believe that they have the right to kill someone because they received cruel treatment. Imagine what the world be like?
    WORLD WAR 1 probably still continues today.

  • Had he retaliated against the specific individuals who had abused him, he might, might have a leg to stand on for his appeal. However, since he indiscriminately murdered six officers without regard as to whether or not they had participated in the acts against him, the death sentence, in my opinion, should be upheld.

    It is hardly surprising, given the reputation of the China police, that popular opinion is against them.

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