What Explains the Recent Wave of Violence in China?

After beatings, knifings, and a bombing, people are questioning whether inequality and corruption have played a role in the attacks.
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Outside the intensive care unit where a 2-year-old victim was treated before her death on July 25 (Weibo)

At 8:50 pm on July 23 in Beijing, a woman was pushing a stroller on her way home. Her daughter was asleep. She stopped at a bus station to organize some of her things when, according to several witnesses interviewed by the Beijing Times, two men in a car asked the woman to move and let them park the car there. She refused. A quarrel erupted. A man dressed in gray jumped out of the car and rushed up to the woman. He pulled the woman's hair and slapped her across the face. Mr. Zhou, a witness, described the scene:

After the man in gray had beaten the woman for one minute, another man dressed in pink exited the vehicle and began hitting the woman as well. At that moment, the man in gray walked over to the stroller. He scooped up the girl, lifted her above his head and threw her fiercely to the ground.

It was all over in three minutes, after which the two men fled. The sleeping girl was silent throughout the whole process. She died at 11:00 pm on July 25, after two days in the hospital.

On July 24, the police arrested Han Lei, the man in gray who threw the girl to her death. Another man, surnamed Li, turned himself in on July 25. The Beijing News revealed that Han Lei had been convicted of stealing a car and sentenced to life in prison in 1996. His sentence was commuted five times for good behavior in jail, and he was released early. The man surnamed Li had been convicted of theft and sentenced to over 10 years in prison; he had been released in late 2012.

After the girl's death was confirmed, many Chinese posted symbols of candles on Sina Weibo. One user posted two candles, saying "One is for the girl, dashed to death, the other is for our dying humanity."

Anger and curses were even more widespread. A writer named Xia He wrote: "Only by killing the man can public anger be quelled." For some people, the death penalty was not enough. User @fuji家的cc argued: "Executing [Han Lei] by shooting is too good for him. Please kill him by ling chi [an ancient method of execution by dismemberment, such as cutting the flesh or removing the limbs]."

The 2-year-old girl's murder was not the only violent incident to make headlines in July.

On July 25, in Henan province, a man named Ding Jinhua killed three people of the same family after his mother argued with them that morning. He then fled to another village to kill a woman, his business competitor. He also killed a driver and took his car. Three other people were injured.

On July 23, in Guangxi province, a man rushed into the Population and Family Planning Bureau, whose duty it is to enforce the One-child Policy; he killed two officials and injured four others. His family claimed he was mentally ill. Information from the local Propaganda Department revealed that the man had been involved in a dispute with the bureau because it refused to register the birth of his fourth daughter.

On July 22, in Beijing, a 50-year old man killed a woman and injured four people with a knife, including a two-year-old boy, in a shopping mall. A preliminary investigation revealed that the man had a mental illness.

On July 20, a 34-year-old man named Ji Zhongxing ignited a homemade bomb in the Beijing Capital Airport, injuring himself. He claimed that years ago he had been beaten and paralyzed by security guards in Dongguan City, a prosperous city in Guangdong Province. Ji's father said Ji often shouted that he wanted to go to Dongguan to petition the government. Several days before he attempted his suicide bombing, Ji had been writing complaint letters to the State Bureau for Letters and Calls, a central government division that deals with petitioners.

The senseless murder of a 2-year-old girl has given those following the news even further cause to seek the roots of this violence.

Yu Minhong, the founder and CEO of New Oriental Education and Technology Group wrote:

Chinese society is full of atrocities. We can't simply conclude that it was the villains that perpetrated these things. They must be punished, but we also need to find the roots of the evil. When justice is unobtainable, when the normal channels to resolve problems do not exist, when officials protect each other and ordinary citizens do not have the same opportunities, when dignity is taken away and trampled, society will turn good guys into bad guys.

The post was forwarded over 163,000 times, and applauded in many of the 35,000 comments it attracted.

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Jiabao Du is a contributor to Tea Leaf Nation. 

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