China’s last hooliganism convict, should convict continue serving his sentence for a repealed law?

From Sina News:


Liu Mang Zui (流氓罪, Hooliganism) was once a criminal offense in China. In 1983, a “Strike-hard” campaign, known in Chinese as “Yan da”, as a crackdown to curb rising crimes had even made serious hooliganism a capital crime.

During this campaign, Niu Yuqiang, an 18-year-old, was sentenced to death with a two-year reprieve because he robbed someone of a hat, broke windows and fought. Later his sentence was reduced to 18 years jail terms on his good behavior, which means he would be released on 2008.

But 7 years after his imprisonment, he was released on medical parole. One year later, parole officers came to his home in Beijing and found Niu was still seriously ill. They granted him extension for another year.

But that was it. For some reasons, the parole officers never came to his house again. So since then, Niu came to the local police station to report his activities at the beginning of each month. In 1996, Niu met his wife, Zhu and they got married in 1997, a year in which the fourth revision of the Penal Code went into effect. The "hooliganism" crime which sent Niu behind bars was once and for all abolished.


Niu (left) together with his wife and son

They made a happy couple and had a son few years later. However their happy marriage ended when in 2004, prison police appeared in Niu’s house and claimed to arrest him back to the prison. It was until then Niu knew that he had been listed as wanted twice on the Internet. According to the prison, Niu’s sentence is now extended to 2012. The day he was arrested, his son was still play around happily, not knowing the sea change in this family.

Niu’s wife thinks it was unfair because Niu has been a law-abiding citizen for the 14 years and reported to the police station on monthly basis. But the prison official refutes that, “Niu hasn’t taken any proactive action to return during the medical parole.”

At the same time, law experts have a heated debate on this issue. Some think it’s unrealistic that Niu would get exonerated because according to article 12 of criminal code, verdict made based on the law at the time remains in force. Therefore, however ridiculous a verdict seems today, it’s still in force. Others think Niu should be granted an amnesty, because the crime he committed at the time doesn’t deserve a sentence that serious, besides, the prison should take responsibility because they didn’t come to take him back during all those years. A Lawyer from Beijing Wentian law firm has submitted a proposal to the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, requesting a special pardon for Niu Yuqiang.

When law conflicts with humanity, which should be placed as essentially important? I remember Protagoras of Abdera says, "Man is the measure of all things". In face of a happy whole family, can’t law have some mercy?

Sidebar: The controversial 1983’s Yanda (strike-hard campaign) in China


The 1983 Yanda is also the first round of Yanda in China history, followed by the 1996, 2001, 2003 and 2010 round of Yanda. The China in 1980s was undergoing a process of social and economic transformation and facing emerging social conflicts and new problems in social security. It has just been through the ten-year upheaval Cultural Revolution (1966-1976) and the new policy has caused mass migration movements, which pose great challenge to local security. Many shocking crimes happened, like the “616 Incident(六一六事件)”.

Under the notion that “Stability is critical to a country and the best way to curb crimes is by taking touch measures”, the then nation leader Deng Xiaoping decided to launch a strike-hard campaign. Everybody was so stimulated but unfortunately, over stimulated. Many tragedies were resulted. In another case, two college women in Beijing were sentenced death because they swam in lake naked. One of them said before the execution, that “Sexual freedom is the lifestyle I choose. It may be too avant-garde and ahead of its time now, but in 20 years, people will accept it.” And she is right.

Some more shocking cases during the 1983 yanda can be found here:

More photos taken in the 1983 Yanda campaign:

  1. Holy shit, the government actually murdered people for swimming naked? Wow, I know it was 30 years ago but that’s really shocking and saddening.

  2. What is the 616 incident? Does anyone have a link for English versions of these past events?

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