China: Finding Light in the Darkness on Xia Junfeng's Execution Day

A cartoon by "A sad morning dream" from Sina Weibo.

A cartoon by “A sad morning dream” from Sina Weibo.

A man is at the gallows, a noose around his neck and his hands tied behind his back. Below him, a woman and child hold him up so he doesn't hang. Below them, a tower of people do the same.

The sky is black, but a lone beacon of light shines from afar. Everyone looks in its direction.

The solemn scene appears in the latest artwork from a cartoon blogger who goes by the name “A sad morning dream”, uploaded to popular Chinese microblogging site Sina Weibo on September 25, 2013. Attached to the cartoon is a very brief comment: “The God says, let there by light.” The comment is followed by a crying face.

What does the cartoon mean? September 25 was Xia Junfeng‘s execution day.

Xia was a laid-off state-owned factory worker who ended up hawking sausages and kabobs in the street to support the family. In May 2009, Xia killed two urban management officers during a conflict. He was found guilty of intentional homicide by the Shenyang Intermediate People's Court in November 2009. Despite the rigorous appeals made by human right lawyers against his death sentence and the overwhelming public sympathy for Xia's self-defense act, China’s Supreme People’s Court upheld Xia's death penalty and had his execution carried out on September 25. The last meeting between Xia and his family was very brief and the authority did not allow Xia to take his last family photo.

For four years, Chinese netizens have been offering both spiritual and material support to Xia's family and campaigning to defer the execution. The news about his execution stirred widespread anger. Below are some initial reactions on Twitter, translated by China Change, a website on Chinese civil society news and commentary:

@tufuwugan: Tears came. For the one life that will soon pass. For the old and the young of his poor family. For this condemned country. No matter how hard we try, this evil group always answers us with the most egregious and heartless acts. F*** you!

@wenyunchao:This evil regime, when executing a powerless street vendor who merely defended himself, does not even plan to let him meet with his wife and child for one last time.

@liushui1989: To kill Xia Junfeng means that Chengguan, or the government, is digging grave for itself.

On Sina Weibo, because of the heavy censorship measures, netizens’ anger and sorrow was more subtle. The news spread and netizens put up candles and crying faces on their status. They quickly got the message behind the cartoon by “A sad morning dream” and expressed their despair, grievance and hope in the comment section:


“Brother of Constantino”: the light coming from people's bodies is lighter than the ray coming from afar.

中年格瓦拉:我看到這張圖 眼睛突然發酸…圖裡的人舉起了雙手 終於撐起了死刑犯 可我們呼喊了4年 結果卻是死前連張照片都照不了

“Middle age Che Guevara”: tear comes out when I see this picture… people raise their hand to support the prisoner condemned to death. We yelled out for four years, but they did not even [allow the family to] take a photo before the execution.


Gengsen: Let the powerless be powerful, let the sorrowful move on.


“Summer passing by”: Gu Cheng [a famous Chinese poet] screamed out: We have to search for the light. We have been searching for it for so many decades, the darkness still prevails. The light is there, but those operating in the cloud have covered it up.


“Doodle”: The ray of light, is illusion…


“Piggy cat”: Some incidents seem so far away that we can choose to ignore them. However, we may end up like him. The rope may be around our own neck one day. Some say there will be light soon. This is too optimistic. If you have the chance, leave. If you don't have the resources, pray and wish for a better life after.


“Battle index 96″: This is not what we want. Fight until the darkness gone.


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