|"Journalists watch pre-recorded testimony by Gu Kailai, the wife of former Chinese politician Bo Xilai, at a hotel in Jinan, China." (Ng Han Guan/Associated Press)|
By Barbara Demick
The Los Angeles Times, September 25, 2013
"Millions of Chinese took to the Internet to protest the execution of a 37-year-old vendor who had stabbed to death two municipal officials he said arrested and beat him for hawking meat skewers without a license. Xia Junfeng had argued that he was a poor, honest man who was only defending himself against the notoriously brutal urban management officers known in China as the chengguan -- and nearly 3 million Chinese agreed. As news of his execution by lethal injection was announced Wednesday, Chinese microblogs were flooded with outrage. On one popular site alone, Sina.com, Xia's name was the most searched of the day, and 2.8 million people posted messages, almost all supporting him. Many contrasted his case to that of ex-Politburo member Bo Xilai's wife, Gu Kailai, a lawyer by profession, who was convicted last year of premeditated murder for poisoning a British businessman. She was given a suspended death sentence, the equivalent of life in prison. 'Gu Kailai was a member of the privileged class who knew what crime she was committing,' wrote one outraged critic in a comment later expunged by censors. 'Xia Junfeng was struggling at the bottom of society to survive. His death is an injustice. There is only tyranny.' 'Hero Xia, rest in peace. Your anti-repression spirit will continue to inspire the repressed. Your name will live in history,' wrote another. Xia's wife said she and her mother-in-law were given 30 minutes notice Wednesday morning that they would be allowed a brief visit with the condemned man before the execution. 'He was calm. He didn't cry. He just kept telling us that he was defending himself,' Zhang Jing said in a telephone interview Wednesday.