A Chinese car thief strangled a two-year-old toddler to death after stealing a vehicle with the infant inside, police said, provoking outrage across the country Wednesday. The boy was in an SUV stolen by Zhou Xijun, 48, in northeastern Jilin province on Monday, triggering a hunt involving thousands of police officers and taxi drivers until he handed himself in the following day and confessed, reports said.
Zhou “discovered a baby in the back seat of the stolen car, stopped at the side of a road before strangling the baby to death and burying it in the snow,” Jilin police said in an online statement. No information was available about whether the body had been recovered.
Chinese media gave the case prominent coverage Wednesday and the topic dominated social media websites, generating far more attention than the annual meeting of China’s parliament, which opened in Beijing on Tuesday.
The parents left the child alone in the car for 10 minutes with the engine running before realising the vehicle was stolen, the state-run Global Times daily said, adding a family member had “fainted from grief” on hearing of Zhou’s confession.
Internet users expressed their disgust at the crime and many called for Zhou to be put to death. “Killing him once would not be enough,” one user of Sina Weibo, a website similar to Twitter, wrote. “I would never have imagined that what people most feared would actually happen… the killer should be severely punished,” wrote another user.
China had a murder rate of 1.0 per 100,000 people in 2010, according to the United Nations, among the lowest in the world.