Commentary on Political Economy

Wednesday 20 October 2021

 Killings suspect seen by some in China as one more victim

  News comes as envoys from Japan, U.S. and South Korea are meeting


tokyo — North Korea appeared to have fired a short-range ballis- tic missile from a submarine on Tuesday, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said, the latest development in Pyongyang’s bar- rage of weapons tests in recent weeks.

The launch came as envoys from the United States, South Korea and Japan gathered Tues- day in Seoul to discuss how to jump-start dialogue with Pyong- yang after nuclear talks col- lapsed in 2019.

Officials in Japan also con- firmed the ballistic missile test, which occurred while the coun- try’s new prime minister was campaigning ahead of the Oct. 31 general election.

North Korea launched the pro- jectile from its east coast, near the port city of Sinpo, according to the South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Pyongyang has been develop- ing its ability to launch ballistic missiles underwater and has tested the technology a handful of times in recent years to vary- ing degrees of success. Further details of the test were not available.

The weapons test would likely violate United Nations Security Council resolutions, although it is unclear if there will be any retribution. In September, South Korea launched an underwater ballistic missile from a subma- rine and successfully hit a desig- nated target.

South Korean National Secu- rity Council officials expressed “deep regret” over North Korea’s actions, saying the launch came as South Korea was conducting “active discussions” with various countries about negotiations with the North.

The U.S. military was aware of the launch, and officials deter- mined it did not pose an immedi- ate threat to U.S. personnel, territory or allies.

“The United States condemns these actions and calls on the


A week-long hunt for a Chinese man suspected in two homicides — which drew national attention and elicited an outpouring of sympathy for the accused — end- ed Monday when police said the man took his own life in a cave after being surrounded by law enforcement.

Ou Jinzhong, who lived in a village in China’s southeastern Fujian province, went on the run Oct. 10 after he was named the prime suspect in the killing of two of his neighbors. He is also alleged to have injured three other peo- ple, including a 9-year-old boy.

Police suggested that a years- long land dispute between Ou and the neighbors was the motive for the slayings. But media re- porting and a search of Ou’s social media posts offered a slightly dif- ferent narrative, one in which the 55-year-old fisherman lived in a run-down shack after he appar- ently failed to get help from local authorities in resolving the con- flict.

Ou’s situation drew wide- spread sympathy, with many see- ing him as having suffered from local government neglect until he was seemingly pushed over the edge. Others used his case to criticize the authorities’ treat- ment of the underprivileged, par- ticularly in rural areas, and a lack of transparency in the country.

The Washington Post could not identify an attorney for Ou.

About 40 percent of China’s 1.4 billion people live in the coun- tryside, where owning a multi- generational family home is a widespread aspiration. But rural residents face many challenges, and reports of houses being forci- bly demolished to make way for private developments or govern- ment-sponsored projects are not unusual. The residents often re- ceive scant compensation.

Even when someone has the permission and resources to build a home, there is often wrangling over the precise boundaries of a land parcel, because many land transactions are not enshrined in written contracts.

Earlier this year, Ou wrote on Weibo, a microblogging service similar to Twitter, that he had pleaded with a local official for help breaking ground on a new home. He said that he had re- ceived permission to tear down a dilapidated structure in 2017 but that a dispute with neighbors had stalled the project.

“Repeated requests for help from various government agen- cies produced nothing,” he re- portedly wrote in a post, which has since been deleted from the platform. “Leaders definitely do not wish to see the lives of vulner- able villagers devastated.”

Ou’s account resonated with many Chinese Internet users. “His entire life is an indict-ment of gov-er meant cor-ruption and le-gal injustice,” one Weibo usercommented.

“We cannot forgive or forget the tens of thou- sands of Ou Jinzhongs in the lower rungs of our society. Who’s to promise there won’t be a sec- ond Ou Jinzhong holding a knife? Who cared about them?”

“You thought we were Meng Wanzhou,” another user wrote, referring to the Huawei executive who was given a hero’s welcome when she returned to China after acknowledging to the U.S. Justice Department that she had helped conceal company dealings in Iran. “But in reality we are Ou Jinzhong.”

Sympathy for Ou grew further after an Internet user said the fisherman had saved him from drowning 30 years ago. The man, now in his 30s, said he was “heart- broken and sad” when he heard Ou was wanted in connection with the slayings.

Chinese authorities moved to tamp down some of the support for Ou. “It’s understandable for people to sympathize with ‘the bullied,’ but that sympathy can- not become an endorsement for violence,” the Chinese state broadcaster CCTV wrote in a commentary.

But debate over Ou’s case has not ended. Those distrustful of local authorities’ account of his death are calling for police to release video footage of the en- counter.

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