Chinese TV broadcast on the hunt for the serial killer in Yunnan Province
Christina Wang and Iris Gao write:
Last week's headlines in the Chonqing Economic Times were primarily about a new round of economic stimuli to promote stable growth in China. The State Council, it proclaimed, was launching 11 ninitiatives to deal with a recent slowdown.
But, amidst that promotion of the State's economic policies, there was a ripple that pointed to a more complex relationship amongst officials, the media, and the public. A featured picture showed three parents, with one holding a home-made sign about their missing children. The headline: “In Jinning County, Yunnan Province, 17 People Have Disappeared --- There May Be a Serial Killer.”
The newspaper reported that both the local Jinning Public Security Bureau Chief and the Deputy Magistrate had been fired over the missing persons cases, beginning with 19-year-old Han Yao on 25 April. Others followed: the youngest victim was 12 years old, the others were all just over 16. Amidst public panic, a joint task force was formed by the Kunming Public Security Bureau and the Jinning Country Public Security Bureau.
Initially, there was confusion. Aside from the relative youth of the victims, they do not seem to have much in common. Their relatives all said that they did not run away, did not own any property that could tempt an attack, nor did any of them have any significant personal conflicts, all of which are common features of missing-persons cases.
Finally, the police arrested a suspect, a 56-year-old man named Zhang Yongming, who was found in possession of Han Yao’s cell phone, bank cards and related documents. The link in the cases was that male victims had walked alone on a quiet road near Zhang's home in Jinning County. He was eventually accused of killing 11 people and dismembering, burning and burying their bodies to destroy the evidence.
So what makes this more than a dramatic serial-killer case? The pressure of the public.
The investigation to catch the murderer was spurred by the outcry of the victims' families, who said that police ignored their pleas for help and prevented them from contacting the media. Far from deferring to authorities,, the complaints of the relatives led not only to a belated investigation but to the dismissal of some of those officials.