Court verdict in killing of usury thug triggers heated discussion on legal justice

Shandong Yuanda Industry and Trade owned by Su Yinxia, mother of Yu Huan Photo: Weibo

A usury case in which a young Chinese man killed a loan shark for his lewd behavior against the young man’s mother has triggered a nationwide discussion over whether the court should have treated more leniently.  
The man, Yu Huan, from Liaocheng city in Shandong province, was sentenced to life imprisonment by a local court in February this year. But the issue drew nationwide attention on Saturday after an article written by China’s influential Southern Weekly went viral on China’s social media.
According to the article, Yu Huan’s mother, Su Yinxia, borrowed 1.35 million yuan ($196,000) from a local loan shark at an interest rate of 10 percent per month in 2014. Su, the owner of Shandong Yuanda Industry and Trade Company Limited, borrowed the money because her company, a brake-lining factory, ran into financial difficulties, but it was difficult to borrow money from the banks at the time, the article cited a witness as saying. Su paid back 1.84 million yuan in cash, as well as property valued at 700,000 yuan, but the amount was still not enough to cover her debt.
On April 14, 2016, a group of 11 thugs went to Su Yinxia’s work place and restrained both her and her son in a room. One of the men, Du Zhihao, who was later killed by Yu Huan, reportedly insulted Su with dirty words, pulled down his pants and exposed his genitals to her.
A passing factory worker called police, who arrived later. The police told the gangsters that they could ask for the money, but should not fight, and then left the room where Yu and Su as well as the gangsters were in, the article citing the court report as saying.
Seeing the police leaving, Yu Huan became agitated and attempted to flee, but was restrained by the thugs again. Yu then picked up a knife on the desk and stabbed at four of the thugs. Du drove to the hospital, but died of hemorrhagic shock later.
On February 17, 2017, the Intermediate People’s Court of Liaocheng handed Yu Huan life sentence for the crime of “intentional injury”.
The article triggered widespread discussions on China’s online community with many defending Yu Huan and some even arguing he is not guilty in this case.
“If I were Yu Huan, and when the law could not protect me and my family at a time of distress, I would do the same and probably more resolutely,” one said on Sina Weibo, a Twitter-like microblogging platform in China.
Yu Huan’s lawyer Yin Qingli told CCTV that Yu Huan’s behavior can be justified given that his mother was humiliated by the goons and was not protected by the police. At least it should be seen as a case of “excessive defense”, if not “not-guilty”, because ‘justifiable defense’ had failed.
State-owned newspaper China Youth Daily ran a commentary on Sina Weibo on Saturday, saying that the public should be given the right to fight against the evil. “The purpose of ‘justifiable defense’ should be to encourage the public to take necessary measures to fight against violation and protect legal rights for themselves. But if the threshold for “justifiable defense” is too high, it may frustrate citizens’ courage to fight against the evil, which may defeat the purpose of justifiable defense,” it said.
On Sunday, China’s Supreme People's Procuratorate (SPP) announced that it will investigate the case whether Du’s death is a case of police negligence and whether Yu Huan was acting in self-defense.

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