Adam Pasick examines the Chinese public’s largely sympathetic response to Beijing airport bomber Ji Zhongxing:
If Ji Zhongxing had set off a hand-made explosive in an airport in most other countries, he would be labeled a terrorist. But Ji, who was protesting a beating by local government officers in 2005 that left him paralyzed and in a wheelchair, is being hailed as a hero by many Chinese social media users. What’s more, officials in Guangdong, where Ji previously ran an unlicensed motorcycle taxi service, have been ordered to reopen his case.
The unusual reaction highlights the fact that many Chinese are becoming increasingly outraged at cases of official misconduct, especially thuggish behavior by municipal urban management officers known as chengguan, who are known for heavy-handed crackdowns against street vendors and other independent businesses. There have been been several high-profile violent incidents involving chengguan in recent weeks, including a watermelon vendor in Hunan province who was beaten to death.
Notably, Ji warned away bystanders before detonating the bomb and injured only himself. Pasick notes that “not all of China’s frustrated citizens have been so considerate”:
In May, a Xiamen man named Chen Shuizong, angry that officials refused to correct an error in his identity documents and give him social security benefits, killed 47 people including himself by setting a public bus on fire. By comparison, Ji was described as a “good person” by social media users, and discussion of his action was not censored by Chinese internet authorities.
That jibes with the response found on Weibo, the Chinese microblogging site:
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:
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?
Weibo user “South of the Sea” warned that China can expect more of the same:
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.