Last October 2010, 26 year old Zhang Miao was riding her bicycle home from work in Xian when she was hit by university student Yao Jiaxin, who was driving a Chevrolet Cruze.
Yao began driving away when he saw the young woman looking at his car license plate. He didn’t want to be troubled by the hassle of a hit and run. He reportedly told police the “peasant woman would be hard to deal with,” so he stopped, took out a knife and stabbed Zhang until she died.
Yao than got back in his car and drove off, hitting two other people in the road in his haste to leave the area. He was eventually stopped and arrested for his reckless driving. Police later made the connection between Yao and Zhang’s murder.
Zhang was a peasant woman, while Yao comes from a relatively privileged background. Yao was a student at a music conservatory and his father is a retired military general with political connections. When Chinese papers reported Yao’s confession to the police that the cyclist was “just” a peasant women, Chinese online forum participants responded with outrage to Yao’s seeming indifference to human life. Some in Yao’s university cohort heaped even more fuel on the class warfare fire when they blamed the victim for the murder. Yao was driven to murder the peasant woman Zhang because she didn’t know her place.
If I were Yao, I would have stabbed her as well. How come the public opinion all supports the victim? How come they do not consider how shameless it is for her to mark down the car’s license number?
When Chinese netizens began calling for capital punishment for Yao, media censors tried to turn the tide toward Yao’s favor by portraying Yao in a more sympathetic light, but the online community responded with extreme cynicism and accusations of cronyism.
Yao was convicted of murder and sentenced to death last month. Summary executions are apparently a thing of the past, though, since he has appealed his sentencing.
Background on the Chinese online response comes from Global Voices: China: The Murder Case of Yao Jiaxin.