A Chinese man who killed a village chief who arranged for his house to be demolished will be executed in the coming days. The ruling against 30-year-old Jia Jinglong was delivered to his lawyer on Tuesday.

Jia is from Shijiazhuang, the capital of Hebei Province in northern China. After his house was demolished in 2013, he killed the chief in February 2015 with a modified nail gun.

Jia Jinglong. Photo: Bowen.

His lawyer Wei Rujiu told US-backed Radio Free Asia that he received the verdict from the Supreme People’s Court. It said that Jia’s execution would take place within a few days, and that there was no chance of the decision being reversed.

According to US-backed news Voice of America, Jia was renovating the house in preparation for his wedding but the relationship ended as a result of a forced demolition by village chief He Jianhua.

The death penalty was approved by the Supreme Court in Henan on August 31, reported RFA.

Jia’s victim He Jianhua. Photo: WeChat blog post.

William Nee, researcher at Amnesty International, told HKFP that Jia’s sentence is seen by many experts as harsh by Chinese legal standards.

“Given the fact that China currently has the policy of “killing fewer, killing cautiously” (少杀慎杀), this case seems shocking,” he wrote in an email.

He said that the short time period of seven days between ratifying the sentence and execution is stipulated by law in China.

“Many scholars have identified this short period as problematic if China were ever to come into compliance with international law on the death penalty, since under international law a person who has been given a death sentence should be given the chance to apply for pardon or have the sentence commuted. But China doesn’t have this sort of mechanism,” he said.

Nationalistic tabloid the Global Times reported on Friday that several Chinese law experts had voiced their opposition to the immediate execution order. Zhang Qianfan, a law professor at Peking University, told the tabloid that the affair was also an institutional failure. “Any ordinary person could resort to the same means as Jia when facing unfair treatment,” he said.

‘Extremely cruel murder’ 

The tabloid cited a copy of the verdict it received as saying that the method of the murder was extremely cruel and caused severe social impact, and that the conviction was appropriate and accurate.

Jia with a red flag trying to prevent his house from being torn down in 2013. Photo: WeChat blog post.

Wei told RFA that over 200 mainland citizens signed a petition on WeChat requesting that the death penalty be commuted. He said there were three reasons for the petition: one was that Jia was himself a victim of ill-treatment from He Jianhua; the second reason was that Jia had turned himself in, and the third reason was that he did not hurt innocent people while committing his crime. If Jia is executed, other desperate people may not consider sparing innocent bystanders, and other criminals may think that turning themselves in is unsafe, said Wei.

Although no recent reports of the case by mainland media could be found apart from the Global Times report, several posts about Jia’s story were uploaded on WeChat by bloggers.

Nee adds: “the fact that the local newspapers have not reported the death penalty ratification also shows how the authorities sometimes manipulate public opinion about the death penalty by widely publicising the most horrific cases, while staying silent or even censoring news about potentially controversial cases.”

Catherine Lai

Catherine is a Canadian journalist and photographer who lived in Beijing for almost two years, working in TV and online media. Aside from Hong Kong and mainland affairs, she is also interested in urban spaces, art and feminism. She holds a BA in Literature and Art History from the University of British Columbia.