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Sympathy for China airport blast protester

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Chinese citizens expressed support on Sunday for a disabled man who set off an explosion at Beijing's international airport, injuring himself in an apparent protest against police brutality.

Messages of support were posted online after reports said 34-year old Ji Zhongxing was driven to the act by a years-long battle for justice after being severely beaten by police.

Wheelchair-bound Ji warned passengers in the airport before detonating the small device late on Saturday in an apparent attempt to draw attention to his case without harming others, the Beijing News reported.

A policeman who rushed to the scene was the only other person injured in the explosion, the state-run China Radio International said.

"He warned those passing by... what a good member of the public. Who in this country is willing to stand up and say they are more righteous than him?" Zhao Xiao, a professor at the Beijing Institute of Technology wrote on the Twitter-like Sina Weibo site.

"By warning others to move away, he is a good person... I hope authorities will be understanding, or they will set off a vicious cycle," lawyer Yuan Yulai wrote.

"He was not as crazed as the police who beat him in the first place," another Sina Weibo user said.

Ji moved from the eastern province of Shandong to work as a motorcycle driver in the southern city of Dongguan, where he was severely beaten by police staff in 2005, causing him to become disabled, according to multiple reports which could not be independently verified.

He had "lost all hope with society", following an unsuccessful battle for compensation, Hong Kong broadcaster Phoenix TV reported.

Ji was arrested at the scene and taken to hospital where he had his left hand amputated, the broadcaster said.

Lawyers for Ji could not be reached on Sunday. Phoenix TV said at least one lawyer could not comment due to "pressure" from the local government in Dongguan.

Reports said Ji had grown frustrated at China's "petitioning" system, which allows citizens to file complaints directly with government departments.

Petitioners whose complaints have been ignored have for decades staged protests across China, with some using violent acts to draw attention to their case.

The bombing highlights flaws in the petition system, which is "basically not working", Willy Lam, a China analyst at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, told AFP.

"People who think they are victims of massive injustice have nowhere to turn to, and sometimes resort to violent means ...to draw the attention of the public."

Ji and family members travelled to Beijing in 2009 to petition central authorities about his case, the Beijing Evening News reported.

His family was unaware of the bombing plan, according to a statement from police in Ji's home town of Heze quoted by the state news agency Xinhua.

"For ten years, he has been petitioning about alleged unjust treatment that resulted in his paralysis, according to a police investigation," it added.

The police cordon at the arrivals hall has been removed and the airport is back to normal, Xinhua said.

Local governments have responded to a rise in petitions in recent years by employing networks of interceptors to catch petitioners who journey to Beijing, sometimes detaining them in illegal "black jails". Analysts say such moves have fuelled frustration.

Newly-installed President Xi Jinping has appointed a supreme court judge with some reformist credentials but has made no major reforms to the legal system since taking office in March.

An unemployed man who had been a petitioner killed 47 people last month by setting off an explosion on a bus in the coastal city of Xiamen, state media reported.

Internet users favourably contrasted Ji's decision to warn passengers with the behaviour of the petitioner behind the Xiamen attack.

"It's a big step forward... because Ji chose to inflict the smallest amount of injury," one Sina Weibo user wrote.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130721/sympathy-china-airport-blast-protester-0