Most Wanted In China

The newspaper coverage reads like something in True Crime (i.e. lurid, over-wrought and over-psychoanalyzing).

(China Daily)

It is not the first time that student killer Ma Jiajue had been on the run.

In 1999, as an 18-year-old student in senior high school, he became so depressed that he might not pass the National College Entrance Examination that he quietly slipped away without informing anyone.


The school reported the matter to police and Ma was found a few days later in Guigang, a city 50 kilometers away from his school.  Ma reportedly told police that the reason for his trip to Guigang was he had never seen the sea; and since Guigang means "Gui port" in Chinese, he thought it was a seaside city.  The school took him back and imposed a disciplinary punishment.

This time, though, the 23-year-old final-year biochemistry major will not be going back to Yunnan University in the provincial capital, Kunming. He will either face the gallows or a long-term detention.

On the run for 21 days, Ma was arrested in Sanya, South China's Hainan Province, on Monday night. Police said he confessed to the killings of four fellow students between February 13 and 15. The bodies were found in dormitory closets on February 23.

The Ministry of Public Security had issued a nationwide alert for Ma's arrest on February 24 and announced a 200,000 yuan (US$24,000) reward for information leading to his capture.

Asked for a reason for the killings, Ma reportedly told police that they accused him of being a cheat in a card game.  A loner at home; an introvert at school; a bookworm with a complex about his poverty; a kung fu fan who loved violent movies; and a brilliant student whose performances would suddenly dip.  This is the complex portrait that emerged from conversations with Ma's parents, teachers and peers.

His introverted character and long-time depression may have contributed to his cruel killings, according to psychological experts.

Ma, 23, came from an impoverished rural family in a remote village in the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region.  As the first in generations to progress to higher education, he was the pride of the family.

His father, 54-year-old Ma Jianfu, still does not believe what his son had done.  "Can you see the cruel side of him?" the elder Ma asked pointing to a black-and-white photo of his son taken during his middle school days.

Li Fengying, Ma Jiajue's 53-year-old mother, said Ma has two sisters and one elder brother but they do not have close ties.  The junior Ma spent a lonely childhood as both his father and mother were preoccupied with farming, according to Li.  She added that there was little communication between the father and son because both of them were men of few words.

Studies took up Ma Jiajue's life in primary school and he had few friends to play with, said Ma Zangyuan, one of Ma Jiajue's teachers.  The teacher recalled that Ma Jiajue was one of his best students; he was good at mathematics but did poorly in the Chinese language.

When Ma Jiajue attended junior high school in Binzhou Middle School, he studied harder and finally became the top student in his class and even won second prize in a national physics competition.

"He was undoubtedly famous in junior school and won the admiration of his classmates," said Wang Guisheng, one of Ma Jiajue's teachers at the school.  But in the eyes of his classmates, Ma Jiajue was still a studious student who had no friends.

In 1997, Ma Jiajue joined Binyang Middle School for senior high school but no longer studied hard.  Huang Jian, one of his former roommates, said Ma was addicted to reading kung fu novels at that time while staying aloof from his classmates.  And an inferiority complex caused by the poverty of his family added to Ma Jiajue's loneliness.

Meanwhile, his academic performance fell sharply.  Realizing his slim chance of attending university due to the highly competitive entrance examination, Ma Jiajue was so perturbed that he took off from school in November 1999 - and was found by police a few days later.

The incident, however, did dramatically change Ma's life, who made a desperate effort to make up for his failures - and succeeded in the university entrance exam.  In September 2000, Ma was admitted to Yunnan University - and his father gave him the family's life savings of 6,000 yuan (US$725).

During his first year in college, Ma made a futile effort to be sociable but ended up becoming more testy, frequently quarrelling with his classmates. "All of us felt his mental problems because he always picked fault with others while never thinking he may have done wrong," one of Ma Jiajue's university classmates said.  "For that reason, his classmates distanced themselves from him but they never expected him to take such an extreme step."  

His classmates said he did not participate in any group events in the past four years.  "The murderous crime resulted from his long-time depression and perverted mentality," said one of Ma Jiajue's classmates.

Psychological experts say Ma's actions have a lot to do with his mental problems, and put the focus on the psychological health of college students.  Zhao Ying, a psychology counselor at Renmin University of China in Beijing, said Ma's growing-up years demonstrated that he has long been suffering from isolation.

University teachers should look out for mental problems in students such as Ma and encourage them to take part in more collective activities to help them overcome their social problems, Zhao said, adding that colleges tend to ignore psychological problems among students while paying more attention to their studies.

Zhao pointed out that images of violence in movies and on the Internet should also be partially blamed for rising violent crimes among young people.

Media reports said Ma Jiajue loves action movies and often surfs the Internet for information or pictures about murders and attacks against police.

(Hainan News Network via Yahoo! News China)

According to a Yunan province police official, the police were able to locate Ma Jiajue's notebook.  According to the notes, when Ma Jiajue was 15 years old, he saw his parents quarreling and he wanted to kill his father.  But based upon further analysis, if he killed his father when he was 15 years old, he would have to serve 10 years in jail and he would be 25 when he gets out.  This was deemed to be not worthwhile.  On another occasion, Ma Jiajue was watching television with his grandmother.  They had an argument over the choice of the television channel, and he wrote in his notebook: "Hate! Hate! Hate!"

(Xingui Net via Yahoo! News China)

On March 16, Ma Jiajue was transfered from the custody of the Hainan police to the Yunnan police.  Before he boarded the car, our reporter was able to speak to Ma with the permission of the police.  Ma told us that he missed his second sister most, at which point tears began to come out.  Why was Ma thinking about this second sister and not his parents?  Yesterday, our reporter went to see his big sister, who is living in Luizhou right now, and she explained the situation.

Yesterday at 3pm in the afternoon, Ma's big sister met our reporter at the agreed upon location.  She looked worried and tired, holding an unfinished letter and a towel in her hands.  When she learned that our reporter was in Hainan and spoke with her brother, tears began to come out of her eyes.  She used her towel to wipe the tears away.  After several minutes, she calmed down and she showed the unfinished letter to our reporter.

The letter was addressed to "Dear Little Brother."  The letter said: When I found out that you were suspected of murder, my first reaction was: Why did you kill?  What was it that forced my good little brother to abandon hope, to leave behind the family, his life and future so as to take away the lives of four good friends?  I thought that you were detestable and frightening.

After you were arrested, you admitted to having committed those crimes.  I went back to my initial thought: Why?  I want to ask you, between coming up with the idea of killing to completing the killings, did you at any point thought about what a blow this would be to your parents and siblings?  Did you think about what a blow it would be to the families of the four good friends that you killed?  It is not easy for the country to educate four university students, but you have destroyed five university students!  Have you know human feelings?  ... (the letter was not finished yet).

In tears, she told the reporter that she and her family bears heavy responsibility for the way that Ma turned out.  Her little brother was always introverted, competitive and insecure.  When her little brother was in secondary school, he always asked her about issues of living and friendship.

From that time, she discovered that her little brother was quite unbalanced and was concerned about "justice."  She thought that this was just a phase that young people go through as they grown up.  When she saw her brother on television and heard about the description of his situation at the university, she realized that the questions that her brother used to ask her had remained unresolved for him.

She was the first of the siblings to leave home to study and work.  She was always busy about working and since she has children now, she had less contact with her brother.  She would call about once every two or three mnoths.  Each time, her brother tells her, "Life at the university is good.  I get along with my schoolmates.  I have enough money.  It is sometimes difficult to keep up with the studies."  She believed what her brother told her.  It was only after the murders that she realized that things were not going well as he claimed.  If only her brother had spoken to them when he encountered those difficulties, they would have been able to help him and he would not end up like this today.

As for the fact that Ma Jiajue mentioned his second sister, her big sister explained that second sister was closest to Ma in age and they spent the most time together at home.  But the second sister made the greatest personal sacrifice for the family, for she quit her studies to make money in order that her siblings can study.  Second sister is now married and living in Zhejiang, and Ma has not seen her in two years.

Big sister's life is in chaos now, and she hoped that things will get better when everything calms down.

(Yahoo! News China)





Ma Jiajue's father personally wrote a letter to appeal to his son.

My dear son Ma Jiajue:

I am calling out to you now.  Where are you hiding?  Please tell me.  You used to say that you want to show your gratitude to your parents.  Every since you disappeared, we have been crying.  Your mother has been seriously ill.  She really wants to see you!  She calls out your name everyday, "Son!  Please come back!  If you have made a mistake, you can still correct them.  We will help you.  If you have any difficulty, you can ask the local government for help.  Or else you can explain the situation to the public security bureau.  They should be able to help you a lot.

Son, you are a son who obeys his parents.  We know that you won't let us suffer this pain forever.

Your father, Ma Jianfu.

(  This is billed as Ma Jiajue's 绝命书 (Last Testimony), but I suspect that there will be plenty of these coming out.


  你们好,本来这封信我在3月 10号的时候就想写了。但是一直没有机会,今天是3月16号了,我是在海南省三亚市看守所写的。发生这种事情,肯定给整个大家庭带来了很坏的影响,但是对不起的话我再也讲不出来了。






Fourteenth Uncle, Fourteen Aunt:

I wish you well.  I wanted to write this letter to you on March 10, but I didn't get the chance.  Today is March 16, and I am writing to you from the detention cell in Sanya City, Hainan province.  I am sure that this matter has caused some very bad consequences for the whole family.  But I can no longer say that I am sorry.

When you receive this letter, please forward my wishes to my parents --- you should ask my parents not to mind my business anymore.  I don't want to see them again.  I am no longer the person that I used to me.  As far as my parents are concerned, I know that no matter how tall or how big I've grown, they will always think of me as little number '12'.  But I have changed a lot, and when a person goes bad, there is no hope.  I really hope that my parents will not mind my business.  As for the disposal of my body, the government will take care of everything.  The more efficient, the better.  Don't worry about the retaining the body ashes, because I am not a superstitious person.

[The rest of the letter is not translated here, since there is just a lot of insincere talk and inconsequential childhood stories]