Yang Jia, a Chinese man accused of murdering six policemen, has become an internet hero. Mr Yang is rumoured to have been badly beaten and maimed by police.
A Chinese man accused of murdering six policemen has attracted increasing levels of approval and adulation from internet users as his trial begins in Shanghai.
By Malcolm Moore
Yang Jia, a 28-year-old unemployed man from Beijing, appeared in court in Shanghai charged with an alleged attack against the police on July 1, the anniversary of the founding of the Chinese Communist Party.
Mr Yang is said to have thrown molotov cocktails into a police station in Zhabei, a northern suburb of the city, before entering the building and attacking a group of unarmed officers with a knife. He was arrested at the scene.
However, instead of condemnation, he has received widespread approval from Chinese internet users, or netizens, for his apparent act of defiance.
He has become a symbol for the growing number of people who are attacking Chinese police in protest at the brutality of the state.
Mr Yang has even been compared to Wu Song, one of the greatest heroes in Chinese literature, who killed a tiger with his bare hands.
One message left on his MySpace page said: “You have done what most people want to do, but do not have enough courage to do”.
The prosecution said Mr Yang had acted out of “revenge” after he was caught by police riding an unlicensed bicycle last October and interrogated. He later sued the Shanghai police for 10,000 yuan (£803) for psychological damage, but his claim was rejected.
Mr Yang is rumoured to have been badly beaten and maimed by police.
One blogger, Zi Bingyue, wrote: “Yang Jia is not bad. He has no previous criminal record. On the contrary, he has a strong sense of the law. He gave seats to older people on the bus and carried luggage for weak travellers.”
His father, Yang Fu, said his son must “have been greatly wronged” and added that he hoped Mr Yang’s almost inevitable death sentence would help spur the Chinese legal system to change in the future.
Another blogger, Qing Feng, wrote that Mr Yang had been ground down by the reality of being unemployed in China. “He would have self-destructed one way or another since he has lost hope. He has no job, no degree, no income, no background, no relationship or normal family,” he said.
Since Mr Yang’s arrest, his lawyers have been uncontactable. An attempt by the Telegraph to trace them to a second-floor office in north Shanghai was met with a simple note saying that the office would be closed for the foreseeable future.
In addition, blogs mentioning Mr Yang have been deleted and bloggers have been told by websites that sensitive articles will be blocked.