Car Accident, Death and the Identity

wo police officers pull up Yao Jiaxin, who was trying to kneel before the husband and father of the victim [Yuan Jingzhi / for China Daily

On Oct 20, 2010, Yao Jiaxin, a 21-year-old student at the Xi’an Conservatory University of Music knocked down a cyclist Zhang Miao while driving at 11 pm. When he saw Zhang staring at his number plate, Yao is alleged to have taken out a knife and stabbed Zhang eight times until she was dead, China Daily said.  In a hurry to flee the scene, Yao allegedly knocked and injured two other passers-by, a man and a woman. Then the man took Yao to the police. Yao was brought to trial on March 23 and the result was to be declared another day.

This case again intrigued hot debate on the media like several other car accidents having special people involved in, such as Li Gang, Qian Yunhui and Hu Bing. Today many people on the Internet are discussing whether Yao should be sentenced to death. Many mainstream media such as CCTV have been involved in this accident reporting, making this issue complicated.

I was not about to talk about this case because it is just one of the hundreds of car accidents or murders, nothing too special. But I find it’s hard to avoid this topic because every time I get onto any Chinese website, “Yao Jiaxin” is there. Everybody, even some celebrities, is expressing his/her own idea on whether Yao should be sentenced to death.

It is the media who fires the debate at first. There is the trend in today’s China media (both traditional and new media) workers to tag the identity of the interested party, such as the rich second generation, the second officer generation, who are regarded as the privileged class. Dramatizing attracts audience but it also misleads. Once someone is considered as the privileged class, anything he does might be biased as harm to the ordinary public or the vulnerable group.

In Yao’s case, the web media, people in the discussion forums and microblogs, are twisting people’s understanding of it. Yao’s father is a retired mid-level officer from the army. His mother is a laid-off worker. Many people on the Internet are saying Yao’s the army’s second generation. People are concerned if the court will lean to Yao and will not give a fair penalty to him. CCTV even reinforced people’s concern by its unprofessional report on only Yao’s side of the story. Then some believe Yao must have some strong military background.

It is a hard time for the court. Like the O. J. Simpson’s case 16 years ago in Los Angeles, the media was affecting the public opinion and the public opinion was putting pressure onto the judge. The court’s responsibility is to give an independent fair judgment, not a satisfactory one. Many years ago, another driver called Zhang Jinzhu, was sentenced to death to “assuage the people’s anger”, which is acknowledged to be an extremely unfair media trial. Today, Yao’s life is partially in the hand of the public again. Again, the court should make its own decision, not be affected by the irrational mass.

About wancheng

Wancheng is a master candidate in Strategic Public Relation in Annenberg USC. She holds a B.A. in journalism in China's Fudan University. She is interested in Chinese social, economic issues and wishes to explore the unfamiliar field of corporate public relations.
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