Mainland court sentences 4 to death over Shijiazhuang bombings


A mainland Chinese court Wednesday sentenced to death a convicted rapist for a bombing spree which killed 108 people in the northern Shijiazhuang city, despite widespread skepticism over his depiction by authorities as the mastermind of last month’s campaign.

State media said partially deaf Jin Ruchao, 41, who allegedly acted single-handedly in bringing about the massacre out of a narrow-minded desire for revenge, was sentenced with three others in a trial which lasted little more than a day.

“Jin had nursed grievances against his neighbors as well as his stepmother, his former wife, and his sister over trifling domestic matters,” the Xinhua news agency said, citing the findings of the Shijiazhuang Intermediate People’s Court. “So he resolved to use bombs to let off steam.”

Jin managed to set off five explosions in four different locations in the early hours of March 16, not only killing scores, but also — according to previous reports — injuring 38 people.

The targets picked by Jin were all somehow related to the people he was holding grudges against, such as the residential building where the parents of his ex-wife lived, Xinhua said.

The blasts occurred within an hour of each other, when most of the victims were still in bed, and some observers both in China and abroad have expressed skepticism that one person could have triggered all the explosions.

Local residents have said they suspected the blasts could be the work of organized crime syndicates linked to corrupt local politicians, or be the acts of protest by disgruntled laid-off workers or soldiers.

The court, however, maintained that the string of bombings were set off by Jin acting alone, saying its conclusion had a firm basis in confessions, testimonies and forensic evidence, Xinhua said.

Jin transported the explosives to the locations he had chosen the night before the blasts, using a three-wheeled motorcycle, and then revisited the sites to set off the bombs in the morning, hailing taxis to move quickly between the targets, the court said.

The court said Jin had been experimenting with the bombs since the middle of last year, when the idea of revenge on a massive scale first developed in his mind.

He was arrested around 2,000 kilometers (1,200 miles) away in the southern Guangxi region eight days after the explosions, following mainland China’s biggest police man hunt in nearly two decades.

Xinhua said he was also convicted of stabbing a former girl friend to death in the southwestern province of Yunnan one week before the blast.

The three other people who were tried alongside Jin at the Shijiazhuang Intermediate People’s Court — Wang Yushun, Hao Fengqin and Hu Xiaohong — were convicted for providing him with materials that enabled him to make the bombs.

Wang and Hao were convicted of selling Jin 600 kilograms (1,330 pounds) of ammonia nitrate from their illegal explosives factory during the week before the blasts and allowing him to conduct test explosions.