Missing baby's body found, nation mourns

2013-03-06 14:01:02 GMT2013-03-06 22:01:02(Beijing Time)  Xinhua English

The identity of a murdered infant whose death has stirred concern and anger nationwide was confirmed after the child was identified by his parents on Wednesday.

"Early Wednesday morning, my wife and I identified the body of our son," said Xu Jialin, father of the two-month-old boy.

Xu said the boy's death has dealt a severe emotional blow to his wife, who has been sent to a hospital to receive related treatment.

Thousands of people gathered in a square in Changchun, capital of northeast China's Jilin Province, on Tuesday night to mourn the baby, who was apparently murdered by a thief who found the missing boy sleeping in a car he had stolen.

A two-day city-wide manhunt in the snow-covered province ended when the suspect turned himself in to local police at about 5 p.m. on Tuesday, confessing to stealing an SUV and strangling its young passenger.

China's Internet has since been lit up by discussion of the tragedy.

Local judicial authorities are treating the incident as a major criminal case and are conducting a further investigation.

Zhou Xijun, 48, told police he had stolen the vehicle on Monday morning, found the baby in the back seat after driving onto a highway, strangled the infant and buried him in the snow, according to the Jilin Public Security Department.

The car belonged to a local resident surnamed Xu.

Xu parked in front of the supermarket he runs and entered the store to turn on a stove, leaving his child in the back seat without shutting off the car's engine.

He came out of the supermarket minutes later only to find that his car had been stolen with the baby still inside. He called the police immediately.

More than 8,000 police were dispatched to hunt for the thief. Hundreds of volunteers also joined in the search across Jilin over the past two days after hearing about the incident in the news.

Zhou confessed that he parked the car on the roadside and choked the baby about an hour after he stole the car. He then abandoned the baby's clothes and the car in the nearby city of Gongzhuling.

The death of the baby has saddened people in Changchun and elsewhere.

"I was shocked when I learned of the death of the baby this morning. I was wondering if the murderer has a child? I thought it was just an accident that the car he stole was carrying a baby, but why did he kill the baby? Why couldn't he leave the kid in a hospital and drive away? You know we care about the child, not the car," a netizen using the screenname "Zouxiaobangdeyequ" wrote on Sina Weibo, the Chinese equivalent of Twitter.

"I hope the murderer will be punished severely. Meanwhile, the parents should reflect on their mistakes, because they cannot leave a child alone in a car or anywhere. The parents are also responsible for the incident," a netizen named "Aike917" wrote on Weibo.

If convicted of intentional homicide, Zhou may be sentenced to death under China's penal code.

However, Chinese law allows such punishments to be mitigated if the suspect surrenders himself to police.

"What the murderer did was not voluntarily surrender. He confessed under pressure from the media and society. His crime would have been found out sooner or later," wrote netizen "Yuwuxiaowu."

"A suspect may be sentenced to three to 10 years in jail if found guilty of stealing someone's property. But Zhou's actions constitute intentional homicide, for which he may be given life imprisonment or the death penalty," said Professor Qu Xinjiu from the China University of Political Science and Law.

Lighter or mitigated punishments are not applicable if the suspect is coerced into turning himself or herself in, Qu confirmed.


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