A man in a wheelchair detonated a small bomb at Beijing International Airport Terminal 3 on Saturday. T3 is the airport’s largest terminal where all international flights arrive. The explosive is made out of gunpowder from fireworks, and was detonated right outside the terminal door. The 34-year-old bomber, Ji Zhongxing, and an airport security officer were the only ones hurt in the blast.
Not long after the details of the explosion emerged, Chinese netizens started to sympathize with Ji. According to eye witnesses, Ji first tried to distributing leaflets at the terminal. After being stopped, he waved a white package in the air, and when airport securities approached, detonated the package. What won him praises is the fact that he warned surrounding people about the bomb and shooed people away before detonating. Many netizens thought that if Ji was to be categorized as a terrorist, he may just as well be the kindest terrorist.
Hours later, Ji’s life story was dug out and widely shared online. Many netizens, after learning about what has prompted his extreme action, started to regard him as a hero.
Ji is one of China’s growing troops of petitioners who want to seek justice denied by their local government from higher authorities. Back in 2005, Ji run an unlicensed motorcycle taxi service in the southern city of Xintang. His allegedly illegal service was caught by local police one night, and that’s when his tragedy started. He was alleged to have been severely beaten by local police that night. His lower body has been paralyzed ever since.
The family tried to sue the police in Xintang more than once, but their case was never picked up due to lack of evidence. They brought the case to Beijing in 2009, but were told to return home to wait for a resolution. When they were back to their hometown of Shandong province, they were given RMB 100,000 yuan as “humanitarian aid.” In return, they had to shut up.
But Ji never stopped petitioning for his case. Saturday’s blast was his desperate move to get attention. And attention he got. Many netizens see him as a hero who was oppressed and now stood up to fight against injustice.
北京厨子, popular account on Weibo, China’s Twitter-like microblog service, commented: “He bombed himself to bring light to others. His legs can no longer stand, but his soul has never been taken down.”
赵晓, business school professor at Beijing’s University of Science and Technology, commented: “Ji used 10 minutes to shoo away people before detonating. That’s why he was the only one hurt. What a kind person! In this country, who dares to stand up and say: ‘I’m more righteous than he is.’”
On the flip side, other netizens think a violent act like this should be condemned, regardless of what the backstory is. Like netizen 但斌 commented: “If all of those who are wronged think they have the right to do something like this in public, the result is unthinkable. To not to do things that would hurt innocent people in public areas is the bottom line.”
Some even compared Ji’s blast with the Boston Marathon bombing. They asked why two similar bombers who both felt wronged by their society received such different responses. For example, one netizen 凝哲同学 commented: “Public opinion in China is so twisted, especially among the opinion leaders. They don’t condemn someone who took a violent act in public space. Instead, they call him a hero for not hurting more people.”
No matter of which side one takes, they seem to share one same concern, that is, how to prevent something similar from happening again. Popular Weibo celebrity 假装在纽约 commented: “In the past 10 years, we have accumulated as many ready-to-explode bombs as there are desperate people who’ve been denied their justice. Why we should care about them? Because to care about them is to care about ourselves. One justice made is one bomb removed.”
And it seems that China already reaches the stage where more and more of those accumulated bombs are ready to set. Just last month in the city of Xiamen, a 59-year-old man who has been struggling under poverty line all his life exploded a rush-hour bus out of desperation and anger. 47 people died in that blaze.
Many netizens think that the lack of rule of law is the root cause of all. Popular Weibo celebrity 王小山 commented: “Violence is the last choice. The more the government tries to maintain stability, the more unstable the society becomes. Without a proper due process, things will only get worse.”
In additional to an increasing number of “mass incidents,” the rise of “individual incidents” may pose a bigger threat to the Chinese government. No one knows whether the next bomb would be made of firework gunpowder or TNT, or whether the next Ji Zhongxing would shoo away people or pick up a packed plane. As one netizen 司令本 put it: “A society is at the edge of collapsing when its people are no longer afraid of death.”