Wife of executed vendor opens online store

Wife of executed vendor opens online store
Beijing.

The wife of a street vendor who was executed in 2013 for killing two chengguan, or urban patrol officers, in Shenyang, Liaoning province, has started a new life by moving to Beijing and opening an online store.

Zhang Jing, 41, became a shopkeeper on the Taobao e-commerce platform at the end of last year and sells specialty foods from Northeast China such as hazelnuts and edible tree fungus.

"I've got parents and my child to support, so I have to move on after the tragedy of my husband," she said.

Her husband, Xia Junfeng, was detained after allegedly being roughed up by chengguan in May 2009. He stabbed two officers to death at the chengguan office and was sentenced to death in 2011.

Zhang and her son, 14-year-old Xia Jianqiang, have attracted attention ever since.

"I was always being recognised in the streets of Shenyang and was the subject of gossip, so I wanted to leave the city, a place of sorrow," Zhang said.

She and her son moved to Beijing at the start of last year. Her son is studying at a private middle school and has adapted well to life in the capital.

"He has grown into a big boy and is much more optimistic than before," Zhang said. "He gets along well with his classmates. They often come to our house on weekends."

They are living in a one-bedroom rented apartment in Chaoyang district that costs 4,000 yuan ($640) per month.

"It costs more to live in Beijing, I need at least 100,000 yuan a year to cover our overall expenses," Zhang said. "So I had to find a way to make a decent living."

The idea of opening an online store selling specialties from her hometown of Benxi, Liaoning province, came from people on the Internet.

"I initially knew nothing about opening an online shop," she said. "I had to spend a lot of time learning how to run a shop and become a Taobao shopkeeper."

The business has attracted support from many Internet shoppers and is performing reasonably well. Zhang has to stay up until 2 am to deal with the orders, and her two nephews are working with her. Sales revenue from the first two days totaled 16,000 yuan.

"That really surprised me," she said.

Feedback about the store on Weibo has been largely positive, with many customers praising her products and encouraging her to continue selling high-quality items.

Despite this success, Zhang still faces a number of challenges. She is having difficulty obtaining hukou, or household registration, for her son. Without it, he will not be able to enroll in high school.

"I don't have a solution to this problem yet, but I will try my best to fix it," Zhang said.

She said her son has drawn considerable public attention because of his father's case.

The youngster has a talent for painting, and he was invited to Beijing and Hong Kong to exhibit his work. Many people accused Zhang of exploiting the boy to make money.

"I don't mind the criticism," she said. "I didn't do anything with bad intentions, I am his mother and I know how to protect him.

"It is my son, my parents and my parents-in-law who drive me on to pursue a better life."

She said she is not yet fully familiar with using Taobao and will continue to learn more about the platform. She plans to increase the range of products she offers as the business develops.

"Maybe I will register a trademark of my own in the future," she said.

Before the boom in e-commerce, many more vendors were on the streets, with frequent conflict between them and the authorities, who often regarded the activity as illegal.

"If we had known about Taobao before, we could have opened our online store earlier," said Zhang. "We wouldn't have had to suffer hunger and cold in the open air, and my husband might never have become a street vendor."

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