Three men in southwestern China have been convicted of intentional homicide for a failed plot partly coordinated in a chat group for “murderers.”
During a hearing on Wednesday, the Xuyong County People’s Court in Sichuan province handed down a six-year prison term to a man surnamed Li for scheming to kill his wife, surnamed Gou. In addition, a would-be killer surnamed Jie recruited from the “murderers” chat group received a five-year prison sentence, while a middleman enlisted elsewhere online, surnamed Zhang, was also given a six-year term.
Live updates posted to the court’s Weibo microblog during the hearing reveal a detailed narrative of the three men’s deeds, many of which they could be seen confessing to during an official livestream of the proceedings.
The malevolent affair began in mid-2018 when Li gambled away $1.5 million yuan (then roughly $227,000) of Gou’s savings. Fearful that she would become violent if he admitted this to her — Li later told authorities that Gou had once attacked him with a knife after she found him flirting with another woman online — he instead thought it better to simply kill Gou.
At first, Li planned to murder her himself, attempting to buy black-market poison designed to leave behind no trace. But after failing to obtain the illicit concoction from dealers online, Li began considering other arrangements.
He then made a post on forum site Baidu Tieba, offering 300,000 yuan to anyone who would do the dirty deed for him. Upon coming across the grim ad, Zhang contacted Li to offer his assistance in recruiting a hit man and coordinating other logistics in return for a cut of the bounty.
Together, the two devised a plan: Li would ask his wife to meet him at a park on Oct. 28 of that year, where a hired killer would be waiting to do her in.
At this point, Zhang posted in a chat group — the subtly named “Murderers’ Group” — on social platform QQ to ask if any members lived near Sichuan. After responding to the vague inquiry, a group member agreed to take photos of areas surrounding Li’s house. But when Zhang revealed that the preparations were leading up to Gou’s murder, the group member cut off communication with Zhang and alerted police in Xuyong County of the plot.
Unaware that the scheme had been exposed, Zhang then recruited Jie, who was also a member of the QQ group, to move ahead with the park slaying as scheduled. However, on the day of the planned attack, Li was contacted by Xuyong police — unaware of the husband’s complicity — to warn him that someone was trying to have Gou killed.
Realizing that the plan had been foiled, Li told Zhang to call off the hit. But Zhang was unable to pass on the news to Jie, who had already arrived at the park and was soon apprehended by authorities. The conspiracy quickly unraveled: Li was taken into custody later that day, while Zhang was arrested the next month.
After this week’s hearing, many in China criticized the length of Li’s six-year sentence, saying the punishment was too lenient for the severity of the crime. “This kind of premeditated murder plot only results in (a prison term of) six years?” commented one Weibo user beneath a post about the trial. “I’m speechless.”
Wang Fei, a criminal lawyer at Beijing Zebo Law Firm, told Sixth Tone that the court may have deemed the criminal case against Li to be relatively minor.
“Firstly, their intentional homicide (plot) did not result in the victim’s death,” Wang said. “The suspects were also apprehended by police at the preparatory stage of the crime” rather than during or in the aftermath of a killing, further reducing the severity of the conviction, according to Wang. “The three men truthfully confessed to their crimes,” he added, “which might have reduced their sentencing.”
According to Article 232 of China’s criminal law, those convicted in less serious cases of intentional homicide are to be sentenced to prison terms of three to 10 years.
Despite the digital paper trial, QQ groups continue to be used by murder plotters and would-be assassins alike. A man in the eastern Zhejiang province was sentenced to an 18-month prison term in January for agreeing to take part in a murder scheme from one chat group, while a woman in the central Hunan province was scammed out of 20,000 yuan in 2017 while trying to recruit a killer on the platform.
Editor: Layne Flower.
(Header image: VCG)