Hangzhou Arson Burned out Chinese Middle Class’s Sense of Security

Facade of the Hangzhou arson

At the entrance of the residential area of Blue Qianjiang, flowers and candles were placed with care in front of the pictures of a mother with her three young kids who are the victims of the tragic Hangzhou Arson.

Their lives were terminated at age 11, 9 and 6 in a fire, as well as their mother (Zhu Xiaozhen)’s. Their father happened to be on a business trip and he was the only one who survived in the family.

The happy family photo from Lin's Weibo

The happy family photo from Lin’s Weibo

The fire was set by Mo Huanjing, the housekeeper who was hired by the family. June 28th, 2017, Mo Huanjing was arrested by arson and theft.

In the morning of February 9th, 2018, more than 200 days after the arrest of the suspect, Mo Huanjing had been charged theft, manslaughter, and arson. She was sentenced to death for immediate execution.

“The devil finally received the justice of the law. Thanks for the fair court decision of the Hangzhou Intermediate Court,” said Lin Shengbin, the husband and father of the four victims after the final trial.

Why Did Mo Huanjing Set the Fire to Her Employer’s House?

Xinhua News Agency first reported the incident. With more details being released from the media, this case soon started trending on the internet.

Mo Huanjing on the court

Mo Huanjing on the court

Four people from a rich family were killed by a housekeeper. People started making guesses about the housekeeping being treated poorly. However, the public opinions switched side quickly after people found out one thing.

Mo Huanjing, the housekeeper in the incident, was addicted to gambling.

Based on Mo and Lin’s narratives, Mo was treated well when she worked for Lin’s family.

Because of her addiction to gambling, Mo was short in money constantly. Even she was paid well, Lin’s family still loaned her 100,000 Yuan to help her purchasing real estates. Being considerable enough to her situation, Lin’s family always gave her free stuff to help her family out a little bit.

Mo had lost too much money in gambling and her salary couldn’t cover the debts anymore. That was when she started to steal from her employer.

Mo stole Zhu Xiaozhen’s bracelets. She mortgaged them for cash in the pawn store.

Even after Zhu Xiaozhen found out the theft, she still didn’t fire Mo. Zhu told her, “Ask me for help if you need money. But don’t steal.”
Their neighbor, Pan Chen, didn’t agree with what Zhu Xiaozhen had done. “First of all, I won’t loan money to my employees because I already paid the salary. Second, they should have called the police immediately after she stole so many valuable things from the house.” Pan Chen said to the media. “They were killed by their kindness.”

Once again, Mo stole Zhu Xiaozhen’s watch (300,000 Yuan worth) and sold it for cash. Lin’s family finally decided to fire Mo and they gave Mo two days to leave.

Zhu Xiaozhen didn’t make it to two days later. Mo Huanjing set the fire to her house on the second day of her grace period.

Mo didn’t hate the fact that she was fired by the family. It was just her idea of getting more money from them before she left.

One day before the incident, Mo was gambling online and lost all her money of 60,000 yuan.

“In order to collect more money for gambling, Mo Huanjing decided to set fire to the house then put it out. In this way, Mo Huanjing could take advantage of Zhu Xiaozhen’s gratitude and borrow more money from her.” The written judgment described Mo Huanjing’s criminal motive in this way. It also pointed out that before Mo Huanjing set the fire, she used her phone to search questions such as “Will I be sentenced to jail if I set the fire somewhere?” “Is it easy to find out how the fire starts?” It indicated that Mo’s crime was premeditated.

Timeline of the Hangzhou Arson

In the early morning of June 22, 2017, Mo lighted up a book with a lighter and ignited the fabric in the house such as curtains and couches. The fire spread fast. Mo left from the main entrance and purposely closed the front door.

Zhu Xiaozhen and her three kids were wake up by the smoke around 5 am. She tried to call the fire station three times.

The firefighters arrived in about 20 minutes. They couldn’t enter the apartment.

10 minutes before the firefighters arrived, Zhu Xiaozhen had called two neighbors for help.

Ten minutes later, the firefighters finally entered the apartment. However, they told the building security there weren’t any people in the apartment.

An hour after the fire started, Zhu Xiaozhen’s younger brother sneaked into the apartment and recorded a video of the burning rooms. However, the fire station declared that the fire was put out a few minutes ago.

Ten minutes after Zhu’s brother sneaked into the apartment, Zhu and her three kids were found unconscious in the daughter’s bedroom. They were sent to the hospital immediately. The doctor declared their death after the rescue.

Who Killed Zhu Xiaozhen and Her children?

7 days after the incident, Mo Huanjing was arrested by Hangzhou local polices. She confessed her crime of arson in Zhu Xiaozhen’s apartment.

The first trial was scheduled on December 21st, 2017. But Mo’s defending lawyer, Dang Linshan, mentioned the jurisdiction during the trial. He then left the court as a protest. The trial had to be rescheduled due to the incidence.

To explain why he did it, Dang Linshan posted a statement on Weibo. In the statement, he said his petition of “having the 38 firefighters who entered the burning building appear in court” had been rejected. The fire department of Hangzhou also refused to provide details about the fire scene. The police only visited two firefighters from the latter squad who entered the building.

Inside the burned house

Inside the burned house

“The Hangzhou police department purposely ignored important hard evidence of the incident. The procuracy refused to fulfill its legal duties. The court didn’t respond to the reasonable requests from the defender lawyer. The legal system worked together to cover up the truth. That’s why I chose to quit the trial to protest.”Dang Linshan said in his statement on Weibo.

Lin Shengbin said he was disappointed with what Dang Linshan has done. He also posted a statement on Weibo to respond (which was deleted soon). In the statement, he listed three requests about the case. First, he condemned Dang Linshan’s behavior. “Mo Huanjing is the person who set fire to my apartment. She killed my wife and children in cold blood. Only Mo being sentenced to death can show the justice of the law. What her defender has done was extremely disrespectful to the court and the law.”Second, he asked the legal system to fasten the trial. “As the husband and father of the victims, their deaths have tortured my day and night. The pause of the trial made it even worse.” Third, he requested the court to respect his right to sit in the public gallery during the trial. “It will be a public trial. Why did they stop the victims’ family members from attending the trial?”

Even most of the netizens showed great sympathy to Lin Shengbin’s loss. They still supported Dang Linshan’s requests. “Even they seemed to stand on two different ends of the line, their requests were similar.” said a comment under Lin’s case. “It’s easy to kill Mo Huanjing. What we really need is the entire truth of the incident. We want to see the improvement of real estate property management, as well as the improvement of fire control.”

It Wasn’t Just About Defending Mo Huanjing

Dang Linshan was the defending lawyer of Mo. However, he wanted to accomplish more than just that.

Maybe we can tell Dang Linshan’s real purpose from the statement Mo Huanjing wrote. “In the meantime, I wish this case could trail in public with justice. I hope, in the future, there will be more people paying attention to the fire-control and real estate management. I hope all of you could learn the lesson and avoid tragedies like it happening again.”

Based on Mo Huanjing’s education level and mental statue, it was hard to believe that such a well written, a rational statement was from her own thoughts. Very possibly, Dang Linshan was the one who told her what to write.

The Hangzhou fire department and the real estate management agency were the other two objects, in Dang’s opinion, must be responsible for the four victims’ deaths.

Dang Linshan said in an interview, “I requested for the directors of the fire department or the firefighters from the first squad who entered the fire scene to show up as witnesses in the court. But the court told me it wasn’t necessary. As the defense lawyer of Mo, I hope I could revivify the truth of the incident. That was the necessary way to clear the responsibilities. Based on the evidence we have already got, Mo must be charged arson for setting the fire. But the apartment management agency and the fire department also shared the responsibilities for the four killed. Also, to defend my client, if they share more responsibilities, it’s possible for Mo to be sentenced to a lighter penalty. Through this case, I wish the fire-control and real estate management could at least improve a little bit. It’s more meaningful than just killing the criminal.”

Condolences from people all over China

Condolences from people all over China

As the family member of the victims, Lin Shengbin also requested a full accident investigation report from the Hangzhou Fire Department. But they rejected Lin’s request for “this is a criminal case now.” “The fire department only provided technical support in the crime scene. The investigation report hasn’t been made yet.”

Until the final trial, the Hangzhou Fire Department still hasn’t responded Lin’s requests and questions.

The Tragedy Tore Apart the Mask of Fake Happiness Over Middle Classes in China

The Blue Qianjiang Real Estate was luxury apartments were famous for their glasses wall, which reflected the blue sky and the beautiful views of Qiantang River.

A unit in the apartment cost about 20 million Yuan (about 3 million dollars). But when a fire started inside the building, it became a hell of flame and smoke.

Because of the glass wall, windows in the apartment can only be operated by electric power. The design made the whole building a tightly twist closed bottle during the fire.

The Hangzhou Fire Department has already confirmed it. When the firefighters entered the room, there was nothing but dark smokes.
“The actual area with flames was only 1/7 of the whole unit. The smoke killed them.” said an anonymous firefighter from the Hangzhou Fire Department.

The fire incident triggered the fear of many people from the middle class in China. They started to check on the fire-control methods of their apartment buildings. Some of them even fired the housekeepers they hired.

Mo Huanjing had a criminal record on illegal gambling. How did she go through the background check and hired by a family with three young kids?

“My family had hired 7 housekeepers during 10 years. Most of them stole from our house. I was abused by a few of them when I was young.” An anonymous internet user shared his story. “Most of the housekeepers were uneducated and barbaric. I personally don’t like this group.”

“You worked hard to make money in this country and paid ten thousand Yuan a month to hire a housekeeper. The next thing you found was that the housekeeper burnt down your home and killed your family.” said a Chinese internet user. “In front of the accidents and disaster, no matter you are rich or poor, you are just as weak as each other.” said another internet user on Weibo.

Lin Shengbin was still suffered from insomnia. “My wife used to call me a pig because I slept like one. Now I feared of darkness. Every time I closed my eyes, I saw my wife and children smiling at me; then their faces disappeared behind the fire and smoke.”

He picked the grave location for his wife and three children by himself. Mother and daughter lied in the middle and two boys lied at side. He wrote on the tombstone, “We will meet each other next life.”

Article Name
Hangzhou Arson Burned out Chinese Middle Class’s Sense of Security
At the entrance of the residential area of Blue Qianjiang, flowers and candles were placed with care in front of the pictures of a mother with her three young kids who are the victims of the tragic Hangzhou Arson.
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