A man in a wheelchair angry over his mistreatment by police set off a homemade bomb in Beijing Capital International Airport in the evening of July 20, 2013, injuring only himself.
Local media identified the man as Ji Zhongxing, who claims that his disabilities are the result of cruel beatings by police officers in the city of Dongguan in the southeast of China back in 2005.
A reporter from news site Nandu interviewed [zh] two lawyers who represented Ji back in 2006 and found out that Ji was beaten by seven to eight police officers with iron rods in Houde town of Dongguan city because he was running an illegal motorcycle taxi. His spine was permanently damaged from the treatment, but local police claimed that he injured himself when he fell from a motorcycle. Despite a witness who testified against the police, a local court ruled against Ji and in favor of the police in 2008.
Ji was forced to cover the court fees, which left him in debt. He traveled to Beijing and petitioned the Central Politics and Law Commission of the Communist Party of China for a review on his trial.
In 2010, the Houde town police station offered 100,000 yuan (15,000 US dollars) to Ji in exchange for a letter guaranteeing that he would stop his petition.
Terrorist or victim?
Most of the comments on Chinese social media expressed sympathy for Ji, seeing him as a victim of social and political injustice. Ji has started writing his experience in a blog since 2006, Feng Chingyang (@风青杨V) reviewed his blog and concluded [zh]:
I finished reading Mr. Ji's blog and found out that he was beaten and became crippled because of running an illegal motorcycle taxi. His family was in debt and they could not get any reasonable compensation after years of petitioning. His parents had passed away and his heart also died with them. I don't agree with the way Mr. Ji handled his misfortune. However, if we don't want to see another Mr. Ji in this country, we have to pay attention to the root of matter. He was a normal person in the very beginning, what made him abnormal?
However, a few believed that public security should be a priority. For example, media worker Yin Zhe (@凝哲同学) wrote [zh]:
Public opinion in China is so twisted. The influential opinion leaders are not condemning those who launched a violent attack in public. Furthermore, they praised the thug as if he was a hero because he had not hurt others. The media paid no attention to public security because they were gathering all sorts of evidence to turn the thug into victim. What has happened to our society?… How come they reacted so differently during the Boston bombing incident?
But concerns over public safety did not gain much momentum online because Ji signaled others at the airport to stay away before setting off the bomb. Zhao Xiao (@赵晓), a professor at Beijing Technology University, defended [zh] Ji:
Before Ji Zhongxing set off the bomb, he spent 10 minutes making sure that no one was near him, that's why he just injured himself. He is such a simple-minded person. Who else in this country dares to step out and say: I am more righteous than him?
TV drama script writer @xiangrenli echoed [zh]:
Ji Zhongxing has given opportunities to our legal system, but our court does not give him any opportunity. Most Chinese like to be onlookers and enjoy watching the executioner kill the revolutionist. Some even buy buns tainted with blood [a symbol in Lu Xun's novel, Medicine, in which people believe that the buns can cure lung disease]. No one really reflects on the problem and Ji Zhongxing will not be the last [suicide bomber].
@yourwisdom shared [zh] similar view:
[Ji] used his life in exchange for public concern. The political system keeps reproducing evilness and its sprouts keep growing. For how long can stability control be effective?
“South of the sea” (@海之南) believed [zh] more bombs are out there:
All citizens who have faced injustice are a time bomb! To deactivate the bombs, grievances have to be channeled and addressed. Maintaining social stability through political control and repression is a dead end.