[imagesource: Pinghai County People’s Government]
A 55-year-old villager in China’s southern Fujian province is wanted by police.
The government has even offered a cash reward for any information about where he is or proof that he is dead.
Ou Jinzhong has been on the run since allegedly murdering two of his neighbours and injuring three others in the house on October 10.
The only information released about the attack is that the victims include four generations of one family living next door to Ou.
But the public hopes he won’t be found, with some Weibo (China’s version of Twitter) users saying things like “Uncle, run away. Hope you can still find happiness for the remainder of your life.”
CNN reports that although this man is an alleged murderer, sympathy and support is widespread:
They claim Ou was an ordinary man pushed to the brink of despair over a years-long housing dispute. Public sympathy surged further after reports emerged that he had saved a young boy from drowning at sea three decades ago and rescued two dolphins that were nearly stranded in 2008.
Many blamed Ou’s apparent transition from savior to murder suspect on the ills that have long plagued China’s local governance, from abuse of power to official inaction. Others see it as a reflection of the broader failure of the country’s legal and bureaucratic system, exacerbated by a besieged free press and a crippled civil society.
And some warn that, if things do not change, similar tragedies will happen in the future.
According to Ou’s Weibo posts and Chinese media reports, for around five years, Ou and his family, including his 89-year-old mother, were living in a ramshackle house in a seaside village in Putian.
Next door, the neighbours were living in a properly built four-storey house.
Ou’s deep grievances began in 2017 when he demolished his dilapidated shack in order to build a new house, with the application for reconstruction having been approved by the government.
But the neighbours did everything they could to prevent him from building his new house, creating the land dispute that supposedly lead to murder.
Ou went through all the official channels to get the problem resolved, but to no avail:
On Weibo, Ou said he sought help time and again from police, village officials, the government and the media, but the problem remained unresolved. A village official confirmed the land disputes to the Beijing News, saying local cadres had tried to meditate, to no avail.
…Inside his shack, Ou had kept a piece of cigarette packaging paper, on the back of which he wrote dozens of phone numbers — of Communist Party organizations, government departments, state media outlets and various whistleblowing hotlines…
Ou had taken to Weibo to get some official attention for the case, posting in January, “Shouldn’t the government protect ordinary people? Why are the rich and powerful so arrogant?”:
“It’s always been the case that honest people play by the rules, but the law will never stand with honest people,” he wrote in another post.
“I hope someone can tell me where else I can appeal. I’ve visited both the provincial and municipal bureaus of letters and calls, and received no response at all. Please everybody, I beg you to show me a path forward.”
The final straw came when a tin sheet covering Ou’s shack blew off into the neighbour’s garden during a typhoon.
There was a confrontation, and according to a state-run news magazine, the situation escalated rather quickly:
“A normal society shouldn’t push a law-abiding citizen to a point of despair, or even drive them to commit crimes. If they exhausted all legal means and still can’t defend their legitimate rights, their private remedy will inevitably arouse widespread sympathy,” a commentator said on Weibo.
Others are asking that Ou turn himself in, even though in China, convicted killers get the death penalty.
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