A murder suspect is on the run in Fujian province. Some in China hope he will never be caught

Accused of killing two neighbors and injuring three others, the 55-year-old villager in China’s southern Fujian province is needed by police. The native authorities has additionally provided money rewards for clues to his whereabouts — or proof of his loss of life.

The manhunt has gripped tens of millions of Chinese language individuals — however not as a result of they wish to see him arrested. Quite the opposite, many are brazenly hoping he’s by no means caught.

The outpouring of sympathy and assist is very uncommon for an alleged killer in China, the place homicide is punishable by loss of life.

In line with police, Ou is the prime suspect for an assault allegedly dedicated on October 10. Native police and the Pinghai county authorities didn’t provide particulars in regards to the weapon allegedly used or reveal the identities of the lifeless and injured.

The victims included 4 generations of 1 household residing subsequent door to Ou, in response to Chinese language media. A village official instructed state-run media Beijing News a 70-year-old man and his daughter-in-law died within the alleged assault. The person’s spouse, 30-year-old grandson and 10-year-old nice grandson have been additionally injured, it added.

CNN has sought remark from police and county officers however has not obtained a response.

Within the absence of official info, Chinese language media and the general public used accounts of fellow villagers, Ou’s previous Weibo posts, and former media experiences to piece collectively an unofficial model of occasions that would have led to the killings.

They declare Ou was an unusual man pushed to the brink of despair over a years-long housing dispute. Public sympathy surged additional after experiences emerged that he had saved a younger boy from drowning at sea three a long time in the past and rescued two dolphins that were nearly stranded in 2008.

Many blamed Ou’s obvious transition from savior to homicide suspect on the ills which have lengthy plagued China’s native governance, from abuse of energy to official inaction. Others see it as a mirrored image of the broader failure of the nation’s authorized and bureaucratic system, exacerbated by a besieged free press and a crippled civil society. And a few warn that, if issues don’t change, related tragedies will occur sooner or later.

A home that would not be constructed

For practically 5 years, Ou and his household — together with his 89-year-old mom — didn’t have a house, in response to Ou’s Weibo posts and Chinese language media experiences. As a substitute, they lived in a tiny tin shack in a seaside village in Putian metropolis.

CNN can not independently confirm the authenticity of Ou’s account, although its posts contained detailed private info, together with his nationwide ID and mobile phone quantity. CNN has tried to name the quantity, however the telephone has been switched off.

In line with the posts, Ou was repeatedly prevented from constructing his personal home on account of land disputes together with his neighbor — a deep grievance he had tried in useless to resolve.

It began in 2017, when Ou determined to demolish his dilapidated home and construct a brand new one, in response to his Weibo posts. He stated the federal government authorised his software for reconstruction, so he went forward and tore down the outdated home. Since then, nevertheless, he stated he had been unable to construct the brand new one as a result of his neighbor repeatedly blocked development work.

On Weibo, Ou stated he sought assist repeatedly from police, village officers, the federal government and the media, however the issue remained unresolved. A village official confirmed the land disputes to the Beijing News, saying native cadres had tried to meditate, to no avail.
After years of acrimony, the ultimate straw reportedly got here on October 10, when a hurricane tore aside the tin sheet overlaying Ou’s shack and blew a fraction into the neighbor’s vegetable plot. Ou and the neighbor allegedly acquired right into a dispute when he came visiting to gather the damaged sheet, and the scenario shortly escalated, in response to China News Week, a state-run information journal.

Authorities haven’t revealed the precise particulars of the alleged murders and it isn’t clear if there have been any witnesses, or what scene confronted officers once they got here to the house.

Ou lived in a dilapidated shack, next door to the people he allegedly killed.

Because the information unfold, images of Ou’s shack surfaced on-line, and lots of expressed shock at its shabby state. The ripped tin sheet had uncovered the shack’s sparse metallic skeleton, in addition to a layer of black plastic supposedly used to maintain out the wind. It stands amid piles of rubble, only a stone’s throw from his neighbor’s four-story home.

That Ou and his octogenarian mom lived in such harsh situations drew widespread sympathy on-line. A village official later instructed Beijing Information that Ou constructed the shack in 2019, and he lived there alone. However it was his failed makes an attempt to hunt assist that sparked a groundswell of anger.

A relative of the victims has since denied they were bullies, or have political connections, in an interview with a digital information outlet run by a Wuhan newspaper.
Inside his shack, Ou had stored a chunk of cigarette packaging paper, on the again of which he wrote dozens of phone numbers — of Communist Get together organizations, authorities departments, state media shops and varied whistleblowing hotlines, in response to Beijing Information.
“A standard society should not push a law-abiding citizen to some extent of despair, and even drive them to commit crimes. In the event that they exhausted all authorized means and nonetheless cannot defend their legit rights, their non-public treatment will inevitably arouse widespread sympathy,” a commentator stated on Weibo.

Ou’s frustration and despair have been detailed on his Weibo account, which he opened earlier this yr in an obvious try to attract public consideration to his case. “Should not the federal government shield unusual individuals? Why are the wealthy and highly effective so conceited?” he requested in a submit in January, utilizing hashtags of the district and municipal petition bureaus to attract official consideration.

“It is at all times been the case that trustworthy individuals play by the foundations, however the regulation won’t ever stand with trustworthy individuals,” he wrote in one other submit. “I hope somebody can inform me the place else I can enchantment. I’ve visited each the provincial and municipal bureaus of letters and calls, and obtained no response in any respect. Please all people, I urge you to point out me a path ahead.”

In Might, he posted a screenshot of a WeChat message he despatched to a provincial information web site, hoping it might report on his case. In one other submit, he hashtagged the mayor of Putian: “Hiya mayor! I am not very educated. When you can see this, I urge you to assist us out, thanks!”

His posts gained minimal consideration, with a few occasional likes.

Vanished and wished

The official response and public consideration Ou sought by no means got here — till information of the alleged murders broke on October 10.

Within the days since, Ou’s case has made headlines and dominated social media discussions. A whole bunch of search crew members are searching for him in close by hills, the place he was final seen.

In a video captured by a roadside safety digicam on October 10, Ou took lengthy, heavy strides, his shoulders hunched over, his proper hand tugging at a nook of his white T-shirt earlier than his lanky determine disappeared behind a boulder.

Then, on October 12, his Weibo account vanished too, after his posts went viral and sparked a public outcry. The district authorities issued an announcement that night time, vowing to research allegations of inaction by native officers.

On Weibo, a hashtag of Ou’s person identify continued to realize traction, drawing greater than 7 million views — however by October 13, that hashtag had disappeared, too.

The censorship additional fueled public anger. Many blamed native authorities for failing to handle Ou’s issues.

On October 12, Pinghai County People's Government released photos of Ou allegedly disappearing into the nearby hillside.

On October 13, the native authorities of Pinghai county issued a bounty for Ou on social media app Wechat: 20,000 yuan ($3,106) for any safety footage or info resulting in his arrest or 50,000 yuan ($7,765) for proof of his lifeless physique.

The discover drew speedy backlash. “The money reward for locating a physique is larger than that for a residing man — is that this actually a authorities discover?” requested a top comment with 60,000 likes. “It is as a result of a lifeless individual can not converse,” stated the highest reply.

The bounty discover was later deleted from the federal government’s WeChat account.

‘You possibly can’t be in hiding endlessly’

Liu Xiaoyuan, a veteran human rights lawyer, stated the sympathy for Ou was unsurprising.

“The general public is keenly conscious that he had allegedly resorted to violence — they are not in assist of him conducting homicide. As a substitute, they’re offended in regards to the failure of related authorities to reply to Ou’s enchantment for assist and perform their duties,” he stated.

Land disputes are widespread in rural China, in response to Liu, who has helped many farmers defend their rights throughout his decades-long profession.

“This can be a heavy lesson for native governments: if they do not take note of the disputes and grievances of the individuals, conflicts may simply escalate,” he stated. “In Ou’s case, if any authorities division had stepped in to assist him resolve the dispute, he won’t have ended up on the trail of homicide.”

Because the manhunt continues, some have urged Ou to show himself in, together with the person who claimed he was rescued by Ou from the ocean as a boy three a long time in the past.

“It actually pains me to see this occur,” he stated in a video he posted on social media, referring to the alleged murders.

“In my impression, he was a kindhearted and trustworthy man. I hope he can come again and switch himself in. It is not simple to outlive within the mountains. You possibly can’t be in hiding endlessly.”

CNN’s Beijing bureau contributed reporting.

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