Death penalty upheld for China hawker

BEIJING - China will execute a street-food vendor who stabbed two urban-security officials following a dispute, a court said yesterday, provoking outrage online.

China's Supreme Court upheld the death sentence against Xia Junfeng, who murdered two "city management" officials after a dispute over his roadside stall in 2011, the Shenyang Intermediate People's Court said in a verified social-media account.

Xia had appealed against his sentence on the grounds that he killed the two officers in self-defence after they savagely attacked him and others in the city of Shenyang as he sold food - reportedly barbecued meat - on the street.

Xia's case drew widespread sympathy amid regular reports of abuses by China's quasi-police city-management officials.

The officials, known as chengguan, "have earned a reputation for brutality and impunity... They are now synonymous for many Chinese citizens with physical violence, illegal detention and theft", said a spokesman for advocacy group Human Rights Watch last year.

Xia's death sentence was the most discussed topic on Sina Weibo - the Chinese equivalent of Twitter - yesterday, where many expressed sympathy for him and called the verdict unjust.

"This was a normal act of self-defence, how can you give the death penalty?" commentator Wei Zhuang wrote.