On Sunday evening, a 46-year-old policeman suspected of gunning down two villagers in central China’s Hunan province was found after almost two days on the run, along with his semi-automatic pistol, one of the main firearms used by Chinese police forces.
Police arrested the fugitive, Chen Jianxiang, about 10 kilometers from the village where Friday night’s fatal shooting took place, according to a post on the Hunan provincial police’s Weibo microblog. Sixth Tone’s sister publication, The Paper, reported that police found a Type 77 pistol in the tall grass near where Chen was hiding, along with two cartridge holders and eight bullets.
Chen is currently undergoing treatment at the Xinhua County People’s Hospital for injuries sustained as he was fleeing, The Paper reported. Police interrogations will begin subsequently.
The case has sparked discussion and speculation online, with some netizens doubting the official story that Chen had a personal disagreement with the two victims. One comment under the local police’s Weibo post asks: “A police officer killed people with a gun. What is the truth?”
“He’s 46 years old, that’s past the age of impulsive behavior,” observed another concerned netizen. “Police are supposed to be psychologically stable. To do such a thing … [I’m] waiting for the case details to be released.”
China has strict controls on civilians owning firearms, so for the most part guns are only available to the military, the police, and law enforcement officers who protect state property or maintain public safety.
Private ownership of guns for hunting is the main exception, and hunters must apply for a permit to purchase and own a gun. According to the penal code, illegal possession or sale of firearms can result in a minimum punishment of three years in prison — while the maximum penalty is a death sentence.
In July, public security authorities launched a national campaign to fight gun crime, saying that while gun violence and violent terrorism have become increasingly common internationally, China’s strict gun controls have protected social order and public security.
Even toy guns are tightly regulated in China. Earlier this month, a vendor in Chengdu, the capital of southwestern China’s Sichuan province, was sentenced to five years in prison for selling replica guns.
Editor: Qian Jinghua.
(Header image: A police officer holds a pistol at a shooting range in Shenyang, Liaoning province, Nov. 1, 2005. VCG)