Deadly loan shark case leaves two families bitter, a town notorious

By Li Qian in Liaocheng Source:Global Times Published: 2017/3/29 19:43:39

○ After the high-profile loan shark killing case in Shandong, the family of Yu Huan, who was sentenced to life in prison, has received public sympathy and donations from strangers

○ The family of Du Zhihao, the slain debt collector, demands "a life for a life"

○ Meanwhile, Liaocheng's situation is still chaotic. The creditor Wu Xuezhan was detained last year for running a gang, but county residents say he's still powerful

One of Du Zhihao's four children plays outside his home. Photo: Li Qian/GT

Yu Xiurong wipes her tears away as she talks about the case. Photo: Li Qian/GT

Su's company is now empty and dilapidated. Photo: Li Qian/GT

Du Zhihao has been dead for almost a year, but his infamy has grown and now the Chinese public thinks he is a thug who deserved something worse than death. His two sets of twin children, however, have so far been kept away from the truth.   "Your dad is working overseas," is the white lie their grandpa has told them.

Du was killed by Yu Huan after Du violently and lewdly intimidated Yu's mother in an attempt to collect a debt. Du was one of 11 debt collectors sent by a local loan shark in Liaocheng, East China's Shandong Province. He allegedly thrust his penis at Yu's mother and slapped Yu's face.

That night, the four people Yu stabbed with a fruit knife ran out to seek treatment. Du drove himself to hospital, but died of blood loss.

China's Internet arena has been abuzz with discussions about the bloody case since the 23-year-old killer was given a life sentence in February. Many are now demanding that Yu receive a retrial, arguing his actions were natural and should be understandable considering the violence and humiliation to which he and his mother were subjected.

Du, without doubt, has become the villain of the story and has attracted the most public venom. In addition, many others have accused the police of negligence and for failing to take adequate actions.

A life for a life

The violent ordeal has left both the Yu and Du families bitter and angry.

"A life for a life," Du's father Du Hongzhang told the Global Times on Tuesday at his home in Donggucheng town, which is administered by Liaocheng. 

"My son was a good kid," said Du Hongzhang, 61, "I believe in the law."

A second trial is expected to be held within 30 days, as the Higher People's Court of Shandong Province has accepted an appeal request, said Yu's lawyer Yin Qingli. China's Supreme People's Procuratorate said on Sunday it has dispatched personnel to Shandong to examine the-high profile case.  The biggest controversy surrounding the case is that many people say they feel Yu's punishment is too harsh.

Yin Qingli insists that his client's behavior that night constituted justified self-defense and notes he surrendered himself to the police, neither of which were taken into consideration during the first trial, he said.

Du Hongzhang said he doesn't believe the verdict against Yu will be overturned as "the law is clear." But he also said the Yu family is "rich and powerful."

Du Zhihao had two pairs of twins. His two daughters, aged 7, now live with his wife in downtown Guanxian county, administered by Liaocheng. His boy-girl set of twins, aged 5, are being taken care of by Du Hongzhang.

Du Zhihao's mother Xu Xiling has been suffering from heart disease following her son's death. Du Hongzhang had to take her to a clinic in a tricycle after picking up the twins from kindergarten.  

Public compassion

The killing and sentencing haven't been easy on Yu's family either. Yu's aunt Yu Xiurong cries as she talks about Yu Huan. She said Yu Huan was very close to his mother and was a filial son. "How could he stand it when those people abused his mother in front of his face?"

Yu's violence toward people who humiliated his mother has struck a chord with a lot of people in society.  On Tuesday, at least three people came to Su's company, which has been virtually empty since December, to donate money to Yu Huan, while local residents showed up to express their condolences for Yu and fury at Du.

A software company manager who requested anonymity drove overnight from Beijing just to donate money to Yu Huan. He said he initially wanted to help cover Yu's legal fees, but as lawyer Yin Qingli offered to represent Yu for free, he said he would use the money to help cover any compensation Yu will have to pay to the injured thugs and the Du's family.

He said he is sympathetic to Yu, who just graduated from high school last year. "The money can also help Yu to do business or start a career after he is out (of prison)," he said.

The IT manager would like to donate tens of thousands of yuan for now, and will ask other businesses in his network to do the same, but he refused to reveal the specific amount he is giving.  Another donor, Shandong local Wei Li, who runs a coal transport firm in nearby Jining, said he feels for Yu as he himself did similar things to get revenge on a guy who abused his mother when he was young and also served a prison term. Wei gave 1,000 yuan ($145) to Yu's aunt.  



Dying for funding

Despite the public's overwhelming sympathy for Yu, some reports have suggested that Yu's mother might have been involved in illegal fundraising herself.

Illegal fundraising is very common in Liaocheng, where private factories that used to flourish in recent years have borne the brunt of the economic slowdown. Most people are appalled by the violence involved in loan shark cases, which are becoming increasingly common as smaller private enterprises like the Yu family's Yuanda Gongmao face huge difficulties getting loans from State-owned banks that favor State-owned firms. 

Court records on China Judgement Online, run by the Supreme People's Court and publishes most of the country's court files, show that Su has been involved in at least eight cases in which she was accused of failing to repay debts running up to millions of yuan. She had also been listed by the courts as a credit defaulter three times after failing to fulfill courts' rulings on her debt repayments.

Su was detained by the Liaocheng police on charges of "illegal fundraising" on the day of Yu's trial last December, and her case has not yet gone to trial. Su's husband Yu Ximing has since seemingly disappeared. Yu's aunt said the police told her that Yu's father is now wanted by the police.

The case has also delivered a heavy blow to the reputation of Liaocheng. The Global Times learned that the city has been haunted by the problem of loan-sharking since about two years ago, and even ordinary residents have gotten involved.

Loan sharks usually collect money from ordinary residents, promising interest rates many times higher than those offered by commercial banks, and then lend these deposits to local enterprises that are desperate for funding at even higher rates. However, when the economic slowdown began to really bite in the past year, a lot of enterprises couldn't repay their debts and the money chain broke. 

Man loan sharks disappeared with their money, leaving ordinary people empty-handed. Locals said that every village in Liaocheng has people whose money was stolen by a loan shark.

Wu Xuezhan says he is a real estate developer, but every Guan county resident approached by the Global Times says he is known in the county as a villain who spares no means in order to make money, including offering loans at exorbitant rates.

Wu was detained in August last year for running a mafia-like gang, but according to county residents, he's still powerful.

One resident who requested anonymity told the Global Times that he saw Wu smashing the camera of a journalist who went to report on an accident at one of Wu's construction sites. Wu allegedly threatened to kill the reporter's whole family if he dared to cover the accident.

Newspaper headline: Lost sons


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