A farmer in eastern China was given a suspended death sentence on Thursday for the double homicide of two demolition workers who entered his home.
The man, Ding Hanzhong, had been sentenced to death in July 2014, but the high court of Shandong province ordered a retrial in 2016, citing a lack of evidence and ambiguous facts. After two years, suspended death sentences are usually commuted to 25 years in jail, but Ding’s verdict includes a restriction that means his sentence can only be reduced to life imprisonment.
Ding’s house in Dingjiashan Village, near the city of Weifang in Shandong province, had been included in a local urbanization project. But the 55-year-old farmer refused to relocate because he was dissatisfied with the compensation package that was offered. When a group of demolition workers entered his home on Sept. 25, 2013, a physical confrontation broke out, during which Ding ended up brandishing a sickle and killing two of the men.
Ding’s family was “shocked and angry” when they heard the new verdict, Ding Chao, the defendant’s son, told Sixth Tone on Thursday after the verdict had been announced. “Other than the fact that his life was saved, this verdict makes no difference compared with the previous one,” said Ding Chao, who was present in the house during the 2013 incident. “What my father did was justifiable defense — he was only protecting our home.”
The day before the verdict announcement, Ding Chao told Sixth Tone he could accept a maximum of five years’ imprisonment for his father. “I insist that my father is not guilty,” he said on Wednesday, “but given the judicial landscape in China, he might still be charged with excessive self-defense.”
In previous similar cases, defendants have received lighter sentences. Last year, a father and son together fatally stabbed a drunk demolition worker who had broken into their house at night in northern China’s Hebei province. A local court judged in June of this year that the two were guilty of excessive defense and convicted them of the crime of intentional injury. The father was not given jail time on account of his advanced age — he was over 75 years old — and the son was sentenced to three years in prison.
In Suzhou, eastern China, a man called Fan Mugen was charged with intentional injury and given an eight-year sentence for fatally stabbing two demolition workers in December 2013.
“The punishment for Ding is extremely severe because the charge is still homicide,” Zhang Weiyu, Ding’s lawyer, told Sixth Tone. “I’m also surprised to hear this result.”
The court did not side with Ding’s testimony in any way. They determined that he was clear-headed when he injured the demolition workers, and that he had attacked first. Ding, however, argued that he had fought back after initially being struck, and that he had been blinded by blood dripping from his head. The court said hospital check-ups showed that Ding had only suffered a scalp hematoma, a relatively minor head injury.
The verdict document also said that Ding had continued to attack one of the victims after he had lost consciousness. “Ding was intentionally taking away the lives of others,” the court concluded.
Furthermore, the verdict read, the urbanization project was a legally approved program, and the legal owner of the house, Ding Hanzhong’s mother, had agreed to the demolition before the incident took place. “Therefore, the demolition workers cannot be regarded as having illegally broken into another person’s property,” the verdict continued.
Ding has appealed the decision, said his lawyer, Zhang, who added that he expects the Shandong High People’s Court to review the case and order another retrial.
Editor: Kevin Schoenmakers.
(Header image: An exterior view of the intermediate people’s court in Weifang, Shandong province, July 6, 2005. Wang Zhide/VCG)