In a case that has gripped China and caused a public outcry over women's rights and official corruption, a karaoke bar waitress, who stabbed to death a Communist Party official who had tried to rape her, walked free yesterday after a court said she acted in self-defence.
Deng Yujiao, 21, was cleared of intentional injury by the Datong County People's Court in the central Chinese province of Hubei, the state-owned People's Daily reported. Hundreds of her supporters waited outside the courtroom for the verdict.
The court ruled that Ms Deng had diminished criminal responsibility and also took into account that she turned herself in to the police after using a fruit knife to stab a 43-year-old government official, Deng Guida, who later died.
Ms Deng was doing laundry when she was approached by Mr Deng, who ran a local government office for business promotion and is no relation to the young woman, and his companion and colleague, Huang Dezhi.
The two men allegedly tried to rape Ms Deng and, in the ensuing struggle, she killed one of the officials with a fruit knife and wounded the other.
The outpouring of sympathy for the young woman has been unprecedented and it has also prompted an outcry over women's rights in China. It has become a focus of public unhappiness about corruption and abuse of power by cadres.
Mr Huang asked Ms Deng, when she was washing clothes in a service room next to his "hydrotherapy suite", to provide "special services", a euphemism for sex. Mr Huang demanded she take a bath with him, but she refused, saying she worked as an attendant in the KTV lounge downstairs, not as a hostess in the spa area upstairs. He later returned with Mr Deng, who also tried to force the woman to have sex.
"Aren't you all the same?" Mr Deng reportedly said. "You are a prostitute but you still want to have a good reputation. Don't you want money? How much money do you want? Would you believe I am going to beat you to death with money today?"
He then took out a wad of money and used it to slap Ms Deng. At each slap, the woman took a step backwards until she was at the edge of the sofa. She then attacked him with a fruit knife she had in her bag, the report said.
Mr Huang and another government official who was also at the spa on the night of the stabbing have been fired as investigations continue into what has been described as a "serious mistake" by the cadres. Police shut the spa and were questioning its owners, while Mr Huang has also been detained.
It is the latest in a stream of such cases and public opinion was most definitely on the side of the young woman – in online postings she is referred to as "proud" and "fierce". "The people's rights have been seriously trampled on," wrote one anonymous poster on the Southern Metropolis Daily website. "If today we cannot safeguard the rights of the woman, tomorrow when other officials trample on the dignity and the lives of women, what can we do to protect them, what means do we have for fighting?"
Last year there were protests in Weng'an, in Guizhou province, after the suspicious death of a high school girl, again with a rape element. Yang Jia also attracted widespread support as a kind of Robin Hood figure after he attacked a police station in Shanghai where he had been mistreated and stabbed six police officers to death.