The passion fruit girl case
In October 2018, Yanyan, a 10-year-old girl from Bolao Town, Lingshan County, Guangxi, was assaulted and killed by Yang Guangyi, a 29-year-old man from the same village, on her way home after selling passion fruit. Yang Guangyi dumped the body after the crime and robbed the girl of 32 yuan from selling passion fruit. Finally, he turned himself in under the persuasion of his family.
On February 2, 2021, the Qinzhou Intermediate People’s Court of Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region executed Yang Guangyi, the murderer of the “passion fruit girl”, in accordance with the death penalty order issued by the Supreme People’s Court. Before the execution, the Qinzhou Intermediate People’s Court told Yang Guangyi he could apply to meet close relatives, but Yang refused.
This is not a complicated criminal case, but around the murderer’s charge, the number of crimes, mental state and confession, has experienced three trials. The murderer was sentenced to death in the first trial, and then the death sentence was suspended in the second trial, causing nationwide concern. In May 2020, the Supreme People’s Court transferred the case to review, and in November, it ordered the Guangxi High Court to retry the case, which was heard in private on Dec 15.
On the morning of December 28, Yang Guangyi was sentenced to death and deprived of his political rights for life. After retrial, Guangxi High People’s Court believes that Yang Guangyi’s crime means are extremely cruel, the circumstances are extremely abominable, the social impact is great, the crime is extremely serious, although there is the circumstances of surrender, but according to the facts of his crime, nature, the circumstances and the degree of harm to the society, he will not be given a lighter punishment in accordance with the law, on the case to make the above sentence. This judgment is final.
“I couldn’t eat well or sleep well for the past two years.” Chen Liyan, the victim’s mother, told TIME after hearing the result, “Now it’s time to take a little rest. After settling down my daughter, I will live a quiet, quiet life.”
Disappearing ‘Little Swallow’
Chen Liyan, 52, has silver hair and a wrinkled face that makes her look older than her years. After the verdict was announced, she cried in front of the courthouse and told media cameras that she was satisfied with the verdict. “I can’t buy my daughter back with satisfaction.”
Chen Liyan is a single mother with four daughters and a son. Eleven years ago, Chen and her five children were left behind when her husband, who could not swim, rescued a child who had fallen into a river while on foreign duty. For more than a decade, Chen has supported his five children by working odd jobs, receiving subsistence allowances and doing farm work.
They grew sugar cane from the autumn of the first year to the tomb-sweeping day of the next year. After the harvest, they were sold to traders. “What they sell in the first year, they pay off in the second.” As her children grew up and expenses rose, Ms. Chen said, she could no longer afford the delay. Three years ago, she planted more than an acre of passion fruit, which she could sell for several thousand yuan a year in cash.
However, one misfortune after another befell the fragile family. Shortly after her husband’s death, Chen’s father also died in a car accident. The perpetrator fled on the spot and the family’s life was thrown into a cloud. In October 2018, an even greater carnage suddenly struck.
Among the four children, Yanyan is the youngest and is called “Little swallow” in the family. Xiao Swallow has never seen his father since she was sensible, so she was raised by Chen Liyan. Before she was ten years old, she was able to take on housework and common work. As the mother often had to work outside, the eldest daughter and the second daughter were away from home all the year round, and the little Yan Zi and the third daughter helped the mother to share the responsibilities.
Little Swallow was photographed wearing an ill-fitting camouflage suit, looking happy in his photos. (FIG. | people’s visual)
Xiao Yanzi turned 10 years old in October 2018. One day during the National Day holiday, Chen Liyan went to a town 10 kilometers away from home to run errands. Before leaving, he asked Xiao Swallow and his third daughter to go to the fields to collect some passion fruit and sell it at the village shopping center. This was the work of the sisters. In Chen’s heart, the little swallow was timid since childhood. “She doesn’t like to talk. She is OK in front of acquaintances, but she is afraid when she meets strangers. Fortunately, Xiao Yan is obedient and sensible. In the pictures provided by her family, she is not tall enough and sometimes stands on tiptoe while picking passion fruit in the fields. After picking, she likes to eat a few, posing with passion fruit and smiling for the camera.
On October 4, after Chen went out, the two sisters went to the field to pick fruit. After picking the fruit, the third daughter said that she wanted to go home to go to the toilet, so the little swallow went to the passion fruit selling point on the top of another hill and sold the fruit to the vendor, for a total of 32 yuan. More than 12 o ‘clock at noon that day, the villagers see, after selling the fruit, the swallow with money, scamper to the direction of the home to run.
The selling point is only 500 meters from home, but it’s the distance between life and death. On the mountain path that spreads in a green shade, the unmarried male youth Yang Guangyi of the same village is already in ambush by the roadside, waiting for the arrival of an innocent girl. Villagers later described to the media that Yang Guangyi usually seemed to be in an abnormal spirit, with an eccentric personality, looking a little silly and stuttering. Since he was a teenager, he had repeatedly stolen underwear from women in his neighborhood.
From the home of “little swallow”, across the field, you will arrive at the murderer Yang Guangyi’s home. (FIG. | people’s visual)
The Chen family rarely spends time with the family. Most days, the unmarried young man worked with his father, but he returned home during the National Day holiday and caught the little swallow running home on a mountain path at noon. The swallow struggled loudly, and the sad cry alerted the dogs of the nearby villagers. The girl’s cry echoed along with the barking of dogs in the roadside. A nearby villager heard the incident, but thought the girl was frightened by the dog and did not pay much attention.
Later, Yang Guangyi carries on infringement to small swallow with cruel means. He will swallow with hand pinch neck cause coma, into the snakeskin-skin pocket into the mountains. When Swallow woke up, Yang stabbed her in the eyes and neck with a knife. After the infringement, he took Xiaoyanzi selling passion fruit earned 32 yuan, and put her into a snakeskin bag, by rolling, moving and other ways to bring down the mountain, to a puddle soak, and finally put it in a hillside.
The little swallow disappeared. When Chen Liyan rushed back from the town and learned that his daughter was missing, he beat all the phone calls of Xiaoyanzi’s relatives and classmates, and made a notice for missing people in the circle of friends. Finally, he called the police. Around the village, police and family members roamed the countryside and launched a wide-ranging search.
“Swallow” killed the scene (FIG. | people’s visual)
Yang Guangyi and his parents were the only villagers missing from the search, according to media reports. Little swallow’s uncle had rushed to Yang’s home and asked: “Have you seen my child?” Faced with questions, Yang Guangyi’s father said he did not know. At one point, the police took Mr. Yang in for questioning and later released him. However, in the early morning of October 6, Yang Fu with Yang Guangyi went to the police station to surrender, on the morning of that day, the police with Yang Guangyi identified the scene, found the body of the swallow.
After the incident, Xiao Swallow’s body lay in a local funeral home, has not been cremated. The daily fee is 150 yuan, more than 100 thousand yuan accumulated in two years. “My daughter will not be laid to rest until justice is done.” Chen Liyan said. After the verdict, it was another heavy weight on her mind. She had not yet calculated how much money the family owed her, and was only interested in getting justice for her daughter. The lawyer advised her to apply to the civil affairs department for remission.
After the first instance verdict in 2019, Chen filed a civil lawsuit, and the court ordered Yang to compensate the victim’s family more than 300,000 yuan, but the execution was deadlocked. Yang Guangyi’s limited assets make it difficult to implement. So far, Chen has not received any compensation, including the 32 yuan Xiao Yan received from selling the passion fruit, which he was ordered to return in the criminal verdict.
A bigger twist lies in that, from the case to the final verdict in more than two years, this case went through three trials, the murderer was sentenced to death, death reprieve, death penalty in the first instance, second instance and retrial (final trial). With the basic facts clear, the sentencing revolves around key questions such as the killer’s guilt, mental state and circumstances of his surrender.
In July 2019, the Qinzhou Intermediate People’s Court sentenced Yang to death for rape, deprived him of his political rights for life, and ordered him to pay 32 yuan in compensation to Chen. Yang Guangyi refused to accept, filed an appeal, saying that he did not kill people at the time of the crime, hoping for a lighter punishment. In May 2020, the High People’s Court of the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region rescinded the death penalty in its second instance, replacing it with a two-year reprieve and restricting his sentence from commutation.
In both verdicts, the court concluded that Yang Guangyi’s main motive was to rape Xiao Yanzi, believing that his first motive was not to kill her, but to cause her death in the process of violently subduing her. Therefore, the court only convicted him of rape and did not impose a combined punishment for several crimes.
In addition, Yang Guangyi appointed counsel had proposed that Yang Guangyi or suffering from mental illness, unclear thinking, abnormal behavior, application for Yang Guangyi to do psychiatric identification. In both cases, the proposal was rejected. The court found that Yang Guangyi had no family history of mental illness and no relevant treatment records, and several villagers testified that he was not mentally ill and was normal. In addition, combining with Yang Guangyi’s crime process, the court determined that Yang committed the crime with strong logic, self-protection awareness and discrimination ability.
Yang Guangyi’s home is now empty. On October 4, 2018, Xiao Yan Zi was taken away by Yang Guangyi after selling passion fruit in front of the same building. (FIG. | China vision)
More divisive is the identification of the plot of Yang’s confession. In the second trial, the Guangxi High Court decided that Yang Guangyi, persuaded by his father to turn himself in and voluntarily confessed to the crime, which played a vital role in solving the case, and handed down the suspended death sentence. As soon as the verdict was issued, Xiao Swallow’s family immediately appealed. Should surrender should not be identified, became the focus of public opinion in an uproar.
“Yang Guangyi voluntarily surrendered to the police under the pressure of questioning by the public security organs, large area search by the police and the victim’s relatives.” Chen Liyan’s lawyer, Hebei Chi Zhou law firm director lawyer Hou Shichao told this reporter. He believes that Yang Guangyi’s surrender is passive and forced, not enough to be given a lighter sentence, for intentional homicide, rape, robbery, child molestation, the crime of several punishment, sentenced to death.
In May 2020, the Supreme People’s Court referred the case for review. In November, the Supreme People’s Court ordered a retrial at Guangxi’s high court. Mr. Hou said they had gathered a lot of new evidence during the retrial. Some new evidence shows that Yang Guangyi was accused of multiple acts of harassment against girls before being admitted to court.
A 20-year-old woman from the same village said she had been followed by Yang Guangyi at least twice when she was about 10 years old. A 10-year-old girl said she had been hugged by Mr. Yang in her lobby and on her way to school. Other villagers said Yang had hugged one of their daughters and peeped at the door of another daughter’s house while she was reading.
On Dec. 15, the case was retried at Guangxi’s Supreme People’s Court, and the case was held behind closed doors because of privacy concerns. Chen Liyan was overcome with emotion and withdrew from the trial. The murderer Yang Guangyi was silent in the trial, his attitude at this time, by the previous “survival” into “die”. During the hearing, he made a motion to shoot himself, as if hoping the court would sentence him to death.
After retrial, Guangxi High People’s Court believes that criminal crimes have the characteristics of diversity and complexity, and although the criminal law provides the principle of leniency for surrender, it is not always a lighter or mitigated punishment. If the circumstances of a case are both serious and light, a comprehensive consideration shall be taken when determining the sentence. The facts of the crime, nature, circumstances, harmful consequences, social influence, the subjective malignancy and personal danger of the defendant, as well as the initiative, timeliness and stability of the confession are all factors to be considered. These factors are more serious, not lenient treatment.
The retrial judgment that Yang Guangyi crime means extremely cruel, extremely bad circumstances, great social impact, crime is extremely serious. Although there are circumstances of surrender, but in combination with the circumstances of raping a girl under the age of 14, causing the death of the victim, and other serious circumstances of the crime, the offender shall not be given a lighter punishment according to law, and the sentence shall be changed.
After learning the result, Chen Liyan family and Hou Shi dynasty were very happy. Hou said he was moved to hear a sentence in the verdict read by the preacher: “Protecting minors from aggression and ensuring their healthy growth are vital to the happiness and tranquility of thousands of families, social harmony and stability, and the future of the country and national rejuvenation.”
That may be a big part of the context for the change in the case. On Dec. 27, a day before the verdict, officials of the Supreme People’s Court vowed to severely punish all kinds of crimes that infringe on the rights and interests of minors. Generally, no suspended sentence or parole shall be applied to crimes of sexual assault against minors. Crimes that seriously infringe on the rights and interests of minors, such as sexual assault, kidnapping and trafficking, abuse, abandonment and school violence, have occurred from time to time, and homicide, injury and rape by minors, especially young ones, have also occasionally occurred, the SPC said. In judicial practice, the SPC requires courts at all levels to adhere to the principle of maximizing the interests of minors, resolutely crack down on illegal acts that harm the rights and interests of minors and damage their physical and mental health, and ensure that minors receive special protection and priority protection in accordance with the law.