18-yr-old Chinese man who gets life sentence for buying replica guns online shouts in court: “See if you can shoot me with the guns I bought!”
The fate of Liu Dawei that would lead him to a life sentence conviction began on July, 2014. Then 18-year-old, gun enthusiast Liu placed an online order to purchase 24 replica firearms from a Taiwanese website at a cost of 30,540 yuan (around 4602.07 USD). But his parcel never arrived at his home in Quanzhou, southeast China’s Fujian province. Two months later, on September 29, 2014, Liu was arrested for arm trafficking. Police have identified 20 out of the 24 “replica guns” as real guns. On April 30, 2015, Liu has been sentenced to life imprisonment. In the courtroom, Liu Dawei yelled out at the top of his lungs, “Please shoot me with the guns I bought! I’ll admit guilty if I could be killed!”
The judge evoked Article 151 of PRC Criminal Law: “Smuggling arms, ammunitions, nuclear materials, or counterfeit currency notes shall be sentenced to imprisonment of over seven years, with a fine or forfeiture of property. Offenses of an extraordinarily serious nature [...] should be punished with life imprisonment or death penalty, with forfeiture of property.” The judge said, based on the law, smuggling over 20 firearms should be given death sentence. However, the judge added that considering Liu’s young age at the time when the crime was committed, the court thus handed down a life sentence instead. In Dawei’s defense, the reason why he bought such a large chunk of “replica guns” was that the Taiwanese online store would not accept an order under 20 pieces.
The crux of the controversy thus lies in the question of where a replica gun is counted as a real weapon on the spectrum. According to “Regulations on evaluating firearm and ammunition performance by Public Security Organs” decreed in 2010, “[the object] should be identified as a firearm when the kinetic energy of firearms muzzle is over 1.8 j/cm2.”
The terminologies in the definition may be obscure for most people who lack expertise in the field. Liu Dawei’s lawyer used a metaphor to clarify, “We are sitting across the table, and I dash a handful of beans onto your face; the force of these beans would be about 1.8j/cm2.” Similar standard in Hong Kong goes up to 7.077 j/cm2, and 20 k/cm2 in Taiwan. Even in mainland China, the number was set at 16j/cm2 before 2008.
Liu’s mother, who never thought she would ‘lose her son for a kind of toy he’s been playing with since child,” said Dawei was ignorant to the existence of such a law. “Dawei never knew such regulation before he was arrested,” said Liu’s mother.
Liu Dawei is not alone. There are more and more similar cases in recent years. Cai Xue’en, deputy to the National People’s Congress, said that there has been an increase of 30 percent of similar cases in Hubei province alone after the new regulation in 2010.