People jailed for owning or dealing imitation guns now face some hopes
Hu Guoji, the mother of Liu Dawei has been trying to overturn his son's case. Photos: image.baidu.com
 
“Please execute me with the gun that I bought. If I could be shot dead, then I plead guilty,” Liu Dawei shouted out desperately in the court where he was condemned to life imprisonment for smuggling weapons.
 
The judge delivering the verdict noted that smuggling weapons is felony, so death penalty is applicable to Liu who had smuggled over 20 guns. “Considering he is at a young age, his sentence was commuted to life imprisonment, and the punishment was appropriate.”
 
Liu’s parents have been trying to lodge an appeal since the ruling came out last April. 
 
In July 2014, Liu Dawei who was just three months past 18 told his parents that he wanted to buy 24 imitation guns through the Internet from a seller in Taiwan. “(Imitation guns) are of better quality in Taiwan and 20 guns are the minimum quantity for which the seller agrees to make a deal,” Liu, who was obsessed with imitation gun when he was a small kid, explained to his father and got his consent. 
 
The next day, accompanied by his mother, he transferred 30,540 yuan to the seller through bank. He waited for his purchase to be delivered while ultimately the police knocked on his door. 
 
In September 2014, Liu was arrested by local customs police and informed that among the 24 imitation guns he purchased 20 were identified as real guns. When Liu was jailed, he had not turned 19 yet.  
 
Liu Dawei 

Liu is just one of many people who got jailed for owning or dealing in imitation guns in China. During the National People’s Congress (NPC) and Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) period, Zhu Zhengfu, a CPPCC national committee member and vice chairman of the China National Lawyer’s Association, proposed changes in the criminal law to punish imitation gun owners and dealers. Meanwhile, NPC representative Cai Xuebei also submitted a proposal to amend standards to identify real guns. 
 
A growing number of similar cases were covered by the media in recent years and this has drawn attention of the two deputies to the issue. According to Cai, criminal cases involving imitation guns had grown by 30% in central China’s Hubei province where he is based. Zhu believes that the rise of criminal cases caused by inappropriate identification “violating scientific perception and common sense” must be dealt with.    
 
Controversial identification standards of real guns
 
Hu Guoji, the mother of Liu, said she never expected the toy that her son had played with all the time could be the reason he was jailed. “Good laws are not supposed to trap people in such a horrible situation,” the mother wrote on her Weibo account, which is titled “Convicted for fake guns—the most tragic case”, and registered for gaining public attention to her son’s case. 
 
Immitation guns seized by customs police in China
 
Thanks to the Internet, Hu Guoji has connected with many who have been convicted for involving with imitation guns. Among the group, there are toy vendors, military fans devoted to collecting replica firearms, fathers who bought airsoft guns for their sons and even a judge who purchased one for self-protection. They have established a Wechat group for sharing latest information. Here are some messages. 
 
“I bought 10 toy guns and they (the police) said three of them are real.”
 
“One night I dreamed about engaging in a WarGame, and even my wife and kid were there.”
 
“I had planned to study abroad next year. If I’m convicted, I’m screwed over.”
 
“I will be in court tomorrow, hope you guys could come.”
 
A law implemented from April 1, 2008 stipulates that if gunpoint kinetic energy, an indicator to measure damage, equals or is higher than 1.8 joule per square centimeter, then the imitation gun could be identified as real gun. The indicator for identifying a real gun is set at 7.077 in Hong Kong and 20 in Taiwan. According to the lawyer defending Liu, the standard was set at 16 before 2008, while it decreased nine times after some amendment to the law. 
 
The 1.8 joule per square centimeter is just an obscure concept, and there is no authority that has defined the damage measured by the indicator. “With a table between you and me, if I threw a handful of beans at your face, the energy of the flying beans equals to the 1.8 joule per square centimeter,” explained Liu’s lawyer. In his perspective, it makes more sense for China’s standard to be reset at the original 16 joule per square centimeter. 
 
True victims
 
“There is no victim in my case, like the other criminal ones. If there is one, I’m the true victim,” Liu wrote in a statement in which he recalled the whole process that had caught him in the dilemma. He noted that there was no intention to smuggle, and he just did some online shopping like any other Taobao user. 
 
“I have no idea about the 1.8 joule per square centimeter identification. Most people don’t know that. It’s not like killing people or setting a fire kind of things. We know those are illegal,” wrote Liu. 
 
A new ruling in another case brings the family hope. On January 26, 2016, a toy vendor who was convicted of selling 20 imitation guns six years ago successfully appealed his case and got a 10-year sentence overturned. This August, the vendor, Wang Guoqi, gained a compensation of 0.43 million yuan from the government. 

The article is based on a The Paper report. 

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